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Obama And Democratic Governors Agree: Raise Minimum Wage


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. The nation's governors are meeting in Washington D.C. this weekend. Today, more than a dozen Democratic governors took the opportunity to sit down with President Obama. The White House get-together focused on a variety of economic issues, including the president's push to boost the minimum wage. NPR's Scott Horsley reports that President Obama thinks it's a winning issue for Democrats this year.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Some states aren't waiting for Washington to raise the federal minimum wage. Fifteen states are considering their own increases this year, including some where the minimum is already well above the federal baseline of $7.25 an hour. Employers in Washington State, for example, are required to pay their workers at least $9.32 an hour.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee wants to boost that to $13.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE: Here's one truth we got to hold self evident. If you're working 40 hours, you ought to be able to feed your family and not be on public assistance.

HORSLEY: Earlier this week, congressional forecasters poured some cold water on the president's proposal, warning that increasing the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour could cost half a million jobs. Forecasters also said the move would put more money in the pockets of up to 25 million workers. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley who's also pushing an increase in his state, argues the extra buying power would be good for employers, too.

GOVERNOR MARTIN O'MALLEY: The truth of the matter is that when workers earn more, businesses have more customers and our economy grows.

HORSLEY: Maryland and Connecticut are both considering that same $10.10 an hour minimum that the president's proposed nationwide. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy knows even with that increase, a full-time worker would still be making just $404 a week.

GOVERNOR DAN MALLOY: We're not talking about a lot of money. What we're talking about is making sure people have the opportunity to pay their gas bill, their oil bill, their water bill. This is real important stuff to real Americans and everybody who criticizes this proposal I can assure you is making a lot more than $404.

HORSLEY: At a dinner with Democratic governors last night, President Obama urged Democrats to stay focused on the statewide elections this fall. All too often, he warned, Democratic constituencies don't turn out during midterm elections, adding, quote, "I guess we don't think it's sexy enough." Ballot measures to raise the minimum wage could help to boost turnout in states like Arkansas, Alaska and South Dakota where Democratic Senate candidates happen to face uphill contests in November.

Obama knows raising the minimum wage is broadly popular with all kinds of voters.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is not just good policy. It also happens to be good politics because the truth of matter is, is the overwhelming majority of Americans think that raising the minimum wage is a good idea.

HORSLEY: As an example, Obama points to New Jersey where the same voters who reelected Republican Governor Chris Christie last year also passed a minimum wage increase with 60 percent of the vote. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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