Minimum wage debate heats up ahead of November election

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- With mid-term elections fast approaching the race is on to get out and talk to voters about the issues that will be on the ballot.

In November, voters in Eau Claire County will get their chance to weigh in on the minimum wage debate.

Signs, banners and more filled Phoenix Park Monday afternoon in Eau Claire, all part of a Labor Day rally and picnic put on by the local chapter of the AFLCIO.

“It’s no secret that income equality is getting worse,” Carolyn Kaiser, an AFSCME representative said.

One hot topic Monday, minimum wage in Wisconsin. Legislation to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 stalled in congress this spring. In Wisconsin lawmakers hit a roadblock while neighboring states Michigan and Minnesota both moved to raise the minimum wage above the federal level.

“What people don't realize is when you make $7.25 an hour how do you pay your bills? If you're going to make $10.10 an hour it makes your home environment a little less stressful it gives you the opportunity to buy decent food,” Kaiser said.

Democrats say the increase is needed to keep middle income families afloat. On the other side of the issue, reports show the proposed increase could cost the state more than 10,000 jobs.

“Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would cost Wisconsin 16,500 jobs and would cost local governments $69-million in revenue,” Restaurant Association Spokesperson Pete Hanson said.

Hanson says increasing the minimum wage could have devastating impacts.

“When you raise it too high you eliminate opportunities for young people. You are eliminating opportunities for the people who need it the most,” Hanson added.

“That is so wrong because it puts more money into the pockets of people that can spend it,” Democratic Candidate for the 93rd Assembly seat said.

Raising the minimum wage has strong support among voters. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released earlier this month, 60% of people said increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 would have a "positive" effect on the economy.

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