by Colton Faull
Arkansans For A Fair Wage, the group trying to increase minimum wage in the state, has succeeded in getting the measure on the November ballot after being given additional time to collect more signatures. More than 67,800 signatures were needed for the proposal.
The state’s minimum wage is at $8.50 an hour and Arkansans For A Fair Wage want to increase it to $11 an hour by 2021. The measure qualified for the ballot on Thursday, with more than 84,000 valid signatures.
David Couch, with the ballot question committee, says the next step for them is to begin a campaign but thinks someone will file a lawsuit against them to get the proposal taken off the ballot.
“We raised it in 2014, and the people of Arkansas voted for it. From 2014 to now, I saw the governor mentioned in some of his press releases that we’ve created 70,000 new jobs or something like that,” he says. “Sometimes opponents say this is a job killer, and it’s not.”
He also sees the wage increase as an economic boost.
“I think it helps the economy as well because the more money people have to spend the more they will spend,” explains Couch. “Most people spend money within a mile of their house. If you get a raise you’re going to go to Kroger, Walgreens, or your local merchant and buy something.
“There are a lot of hard working people in Arkansas that work full time and at $8.50 an hour you can’t pay your expenses, you can’t feed your kids, you can’t feed yourself a lot of the time,” he says. “It’s really important that work hard be able to pay their bills, feed their family.”
Couch says he’s not sure if bringing the minimum wage up to $11 an hour will mean a living wage for Arkansas. “I guess it depends on how you define living wage. It probably should be higher but it’s a step in the right direction.”
The initiated act will be Issue Five on the ballot this year. Voters will also consider whether to limit damages awarded in lawsuits, amend the Arkansas Constitution to require photo identification to vote, and impose stricter term limits for lawmakers. A group working to legalize casinos in Arkansas has until next week to submit additional signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.