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‘That is disappointing,’ State leaders split over bill that bans cities from setting their own minimum wage

Gov. Mary Fallin

OKLAHOMA CITY – As national leaders fight over whether the government should raise the minimum wage, state leaders are taking matters into their own hands to keep all towns in Oklahoma on the same page.

According to the Tulsa World, Gov. Mary Fallin recently signed a measure that bars cities and towns from increasing the minimum wage above the state rate.

Currently, the state’s minimum wage is set at $7.25 an hour.

Fallin said, “Mandating a minimum wage increase at the local level would drive businesses to other communities and states, and would raise prices for consumers.”

Minimum wage has become a national topic of debate.

Supporters of raising the minimum wage say it is needed to reduce poverty, while critics believe raising the minimum wage will hurt businesses and result in layoffs.

Fallin disagrees with those who argue that increasing minimum wage would lift low-income families out of poverty.

“Most minimum wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs,” Fallin said. “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.”

Instead, Fallin says she believes the new local bill protects the state economy from a public policy that would destroy jobs.

However, not everyone agrees with her assessment.

Dave Ratcliff, secretary and treasurer for the Communications Workers of American, Local 6012, argued “It is immoral that Mary Fallin and her Republicans will not support the middle class.  How can they claim to be Christians but refuse to support the folks working two and three jobs so they can afford an apartment?”

Tulsa World reports that House Minority Leader Scott Inman  said Republicans have argued that the federal government telling states what to do is bad policy.

“Well, now Republican leadership in Oklahoma City have decided they can tell every city and town and their voters what to do,” Inman said. “We believe that if the citizens of a community want to set the minimum wage in their town at particular rate through the initiative petition process, they ought to have a right to do that. Gov. Fallin and Republican leaders apparently felt it was more important to strip the citizens of their initiative petition rights, and that is disappointing.”

Rep. Joe Dorman said, “Fallin has taken Oklahoma a step backward by signing this bill. Instead of trying to help Oklahomans, she would rather support corporations and campaign contributors.”

Dorman says one in six Oklahomans are living below the poverty line, and the real median family income and real per capita income have declined almost two percent over the last three years.

He added, “Today, the minimum wage in Oklahoma is below the living wage in every category, and too many Oklahomans work at a low paying job that does not yield a living wage. Oklahoma’s hardworking men and women deserve a paycheck that meets their family needs. We should be working in a bipartisan manner to ensure a higher minimum wage to secure an economy that meets the needs of all Oklahomans, rather than ensuring a never-ending cycle of poverty for so many of our state’s citizens. We’re clearly not getting that with Mary Fallin. Oklahoma deserves better.”