Iowa torn on minimum wage issue - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa torn on minimum wage issue

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Raising the minimum wage is a hot topic in many states this legislative session, including Iowa.

Iowa's minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 an hour and was last raised in 2008.

"You're talking about folks who have not seen a raise in seven years," Democratic state representative Pat Murphy said Friday afternoon.

Murphy, from Dubuque, introduced a bill this week that would incrementally raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

"It's not just high school and college-age students," Murphy said. "We have women in their 20s and early 30s that are raising a child or children and making $7.25 an hour. We need to make sure that those people can have more money to spend on their family. And, quite frankly, it's money that will be turned around in the economy."

Iowa's Republican governor Terry Branstad, however, said he's not interested in that approach to getting people better-paying jobs.

"We have a split legislature, and this is something the Democrats are indicating but the Republicans don't have as much interest in," Branstad said. "I think the big thing we're focused on is bringing more good jobs to Iowa, and we think that's a better approach than just mandating an increase in the wage."

Job training is another path to better wages.

Iowa's lieutenant governor Kim Reynolds said "this year, we put three times the money into an apprenticeship program that individuals can earn while they learn, especially with all the construction and the job growth that we're seeing as the economy continues to grow."

Murphy said he doesn't disagree with investing in job training and job creation, but he said there has to be more.

"It's about making sure that people in the middle class get their opportunity, but also making sure that people who want to get into the middle class can," Murphy said.

Branstad said he worries a minimum wage increase would burden Iowa business owners.

"When you require a minimum wage, it also eliminates jobs, too, so you got to look at the balance in that," Branstad said. "My focus is, 'How can we bring more good jobs...to the state?'"

Under the proposed legislation, Iowa's minimum raise would jump to $8.25 per hour on July 1 of this year, $9.25 in 2015 and, finally, $10.10 by 2015.

"It's been seven years, and, quite frankly, a lot of folks are struggling out there at $7.25," Murphy said.

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