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Backers file signatures for increase



Published: Wed, August 9, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The proposal would increase the state's minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $6.85.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to boost the state's minimum wage say they're confident they have amassed enough valid signatures to get their issue before voters this November.

Leaders of the coalition backing the move filed 765,594 signatures with the state on Tuesday to place the issue on the fall ballot.

If minimum-wage raise backers have at least 322,899 valid signatures in support of the measure, the proposal advances to the Nov. 7 general election.

"They're good signatures," said Tim Burga, legislative director for the Ohio AFL-CIO, and one of the leaders of Ohioans For A Fair Minimum Wage, the coalition to raise the minimum wage.

The proposed amendment would increase the state's minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $6.85, according to supporters.

If it makes it onto the ballot and is approved by voters, the measure would take effect in January. There would be inflationary adjustments to the rate after that, if the proposal makes it onto the ballot and is approved.

Proponents

Supporters of the measure say it would be good for businesses and the economy and that if workers have more money, they will spend it at area businesses.

At least one person who has worked at jobs that pay minimum wage says it's very difficult to support a family at that wage level.

"It's very challenging," said James Hannon, a 34-year-old Columbus man who has worked minimum-wage jobs but who is currently unemployed.

Hannon said a bump up in the minimum wage would be a step in the right direction.

Opponents including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, however, say many smaller employers are already facing 15 to 20 percent spikes in their health-insurance premiums.

A large minimum-wage boost not only adds to these labor costs but could force employers to cut back on health care coverage or other fringe benefits that they need to attract and retain workers, the NFIB says.

James Lee, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said state officials will now send the signatures to individual counties to be checked.




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