In a move that fits seamlessly into the GOP’s War on the War on Poverty, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin (R) has signed a bill into law that prohibits cities in the state from establishing mandatory minimum wages or vacation and sick-day requirements. The new law’s proponents claim that such a ban is necessary for economic homogeneity across the state, as allowing different municipalities to have different minimum wages could draw work disproportionately away from or towards certain cities. In essence, it seems that the logic goes something like this — if we all lose together, we practically win together.
According to Rep. Randy Grau (R-Edmond), the bill’s main supporter in the House, the ban provides “safeguards that protect small businesses and consumers,” while raising the minimum wage “could derail local economies in a matter of months.” According to Grau, without a “level playing field” across the state, it seems that economic prosperity would all but perish. Currently, Oklahoma’s minimum wage stands at $7.25, equal to the federal level.
The bill was officially passed by Oklahoma’s House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Oklahoma’s new law comes only two months after Governor Fallin, the chair of the National Governors Association, led a national conference of governors that clashed over President Obama’s proposal to increase the national minimum wage to $10.10. In February, Obama signed an executive order that required federal contractors to pay their employees $10.10 an hour. But Gov. Fallin, along with many of her Republican colleagues, found the minimum-wage hike to be poor planning.
Claiming that the market would “take care of itself,” Governor Fallin insisted that a higher minimum wage was not only unnecessary, but actively harmful to the American economy.
“I’m not for increasing the minimum wage because I’m concerned it would destroy jobs, especially for small-business owners,” she said at the time. Her concerns were quickly echoed by GOP leaders, who latched onto a Congressional Budget Office report that said raising the minimum wage by nearly $3 could reduce jobs in 2016 by about 500,000. Of course, the CBO also found that approximately 45 million Americans would fall below the poverty line in 2016 if the minimum wage were to remain at its current level. That finding was handily ignored.
Many critics say that Fallin’s new measure unfairly targets Oklahoma City, where proponents of Obama’s $10.10 wage are collecting signatures to support the increase. The author of the initiative petition, lawyer David Slain, told the Associated Press that he was disappointed that state lawmakers “would vote in such a way to take the right of the people to decide minimum wage.”
In a press release on Monday, Governor Fallin insisted that increasing the minimum wage is not the path out of poverty that Democrats suggest it is, stating:
“Most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs. Many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families. Mandating an increase in the minimum wage would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers. It would create a hardship for small business owners, stifle job creation and increase costs for consumers, and it would do all of these things without even addressing the goal of reducing poverty.”
Governor Fallin, once again, seemed to ignore the CBO’s report that such an increase could boost collective earnings by $31 billion for 33 million low-wage workers and bring an estimated 900,000 people out of poverty. But who’s counting?
Photo: pbarcas via Flickr