by Caleb Talley
As we march our way toward Election Day, it’s critical Arkansas voters know what they’ll be seeing when they enter the ballot box. Campaigns are heating up – not only individuals seeking offices, but also those fighting for or against proposed ballot measures.
And as is almost always the case, misinformation abounds. In the case of Arkansas’ five (or, maybe, 4) ballot measures, misinformation is the name of the game. So, let’s work our way through each one to try and dispel some of the nonsense being bandied about by those for and against.
Over the next few weeks, Cash & Candor will cut through the crap coating all of the measures likely to appear on your ballot this November, examine what the measures really say and see who’s shelling out the big buck to get them passed or shot down. We’ll start with Issue 5 and work our way toward the highly controversial, complex and recently struck down Issue 1.
And remember to direct all hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, where it will be moved to my ‘Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings’ folder.
If approved by voters, Issue 5 would raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 by 2021. The ballot title, in full, reads:
An act to amend the Arkansas code concerning the state minimum wage; the act would raise the current state minimum wage from eight dollars and fifty cents ($8.50) per hour to nine dollars and twenty-five cents ($9.25) per hour on January 1, 2019, to ten dollars ($10.00) per hour on January 1, 2020, and to eleven dollars ($11.00) per hour on January 1, 2021.
Issue 5 is pretty cut and dry, and whether or not you support it is likely dependent what side of the partisan divide you fall on and your perception of the problem with the domestic labor market.
Those who support an increased minimum wage are more likely to believe employers are squeezing more and more output from their employees without fair compensation. And there might be some merit to that. As it’s been reported time and again over the past couple of years, corporate America is sitting on record amounts of cash.
Those who oppose raising the minimum wage are certain to point to the impact it has on employment and labor markets. Sure, raising the minimum wage may feel like a great way of helping low-wage workers. But in practice, it often causes a number of low-wage workers to lose hours, or worse, their jobs.
Those against a minimum wage hike will point to Seattle, where a mandatory wage increase to $15 an hour proved detrimental to low-wage workers.
Economists found that raising the pay floor led to net losses in payroll expenses and worker incomes for low-wage workers. When hourly wages rose in 2016, hours of work and earnings for low-wage workers were reduced by 9 percent for the first three calendar quarters, resulting in 3.5 million fewer hours worked for each calendar quarter.
As a result of the wage increases in Seattle, the number of jobs declined by 7 percent; more than 5,000 jobs were lost. All told, low-wage workers got less money in their pockets, rather than more.
Economists from the Manhattan Institute, FiveThirtyEight and the National Bureau of Economic Research all came to the same conclusion.
And it’s not just Seattle. Researchers found similar results in states that moved in the same direction.
But don’t let a little economic research ruin a good feeling.
The committees registered to support and oppose Issue 5 are appropriately named. Supporting the measure is Arkansans for a Fair Wage. As of Aug. 16, the committee had raised $505,300 and spent $475,358.
The top three donors to the committee provided nearly 99 percent of all the contributions the committee received. The Sixteen Thirty Fund, based in Washington, D.C., contributed $350,000. The Fairness Project donated $100,000, and the National Employment Law Project donated $50,200.
The bulk of the money spent by the committee – more than $370,000 in the month of July alone – went to the Georgia-based National Ballot Access for canvassing.
The committee registered in opposition of the measure is Arkansans for a Strong Economy. The committee is led by state Chamber of Commerce boss Randy Zook and the committee reported no activity or funds raised.
This week, Arkansans for a Strong Economy filed a petition with the Arkansas Supreme Court, asking that Issue 5 be struck from the November ballot. The committee alleges that Arkansans for a Fair Wage did not follow the law in registering all of its paid canvassers with the Secretary of State’s office, making their petition invalid.
Arkansans for a Fair Wage submitted 84,526 signatures from voters across the state. That’s 16,639 more signatures than required.
So, there’s that.
Next week, we’ll dive head first into Issue 4, which was greenlighted by Secretary of State Mark Martin this week.
In Cash & Candor, Arkansas Money & Politics / AY Magazine Editor Caleb Talley aims to shoot it straight when it comes to business and politics in and around the Natural State. Talley comes to AMP by way of the Arkansas Delta, where he called balls and strikes at the Forrest City Times-Herald. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com. Read more Cash & Candor here.