BANGOR, Maine — Bangor’s protracted debate over whether to raise the minimum wage locally may be decided Monday night.
City Council will consider several versions of the proposal during a 7:30 p.m. meeting in council chambers at city hall.
The question looming for months has been whether a majority of councilors would support a local increase in the minimum wage. Councilor Joe Baldacci’s initial proposal struggled to gain traction but started the conversation.
That proposal would increase Bangor’s minimum wage from $7.50 per hour — the current state level — up by annual increments until it reaches $9.75 in 2018. After that, the wage would increase based on the consumer price index.
The council will consider versions of the increase that differ in how they treat tipped employees, whether workers under 18 should be included and other details.
If councilors approve the increase proposed by Baldacci, the first phased hike would take effect in January.
Alternatively, they could back a version of the increase that wouldn’t take effect until January 2017. That amendment was proposed two weeks ago by Councilor Josh Plourde.
By next November, a statewide referendum vote could decide whether Maine will increase its minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020. Bangor’s ordinance would serve as a backup measure, increasing the city’s minimum wage in the event the statewide effort falters. It also could be viewed as an endorsement of the statewide initiative.
Councilors have largely agreed the minimum wage needs a bump. Neither Maine nor the federal government have increased their minimum wages since 2009, but the cost of living in Maine continues to rise. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.
What councilors have differed over is how that should be done, and they have grappled to craft a proposal that a majority of them can agree on.
Opponents have argued a minimum wage increase shouldn’t be made by an individual municipality. That call should be made at the statewide or federal level, they say. Others believe increasing the minimum wage in Bangor could drive businesses away, making the community seem less business friendly.
Two new councilors — Joe Perry and Sarah Nichols — have joined the debate after winning seats on the council last month and are likely to cast key votes.
Last month, voters in Portland rejected a push in their city to increase the minimum wage to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour. That proposal faced strong resistance from the local business community, including the regional chamber of commerce, which argued it went too far too fast.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.