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Woodbury County Supervisors nix return of minimum wage study

Woodbury County Supervisors nix return of minimum wage study

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SIOUX CITY | Woodbury County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeremy Taylor on Tuesday quickly shut down the latest attempt by Supervisor Jackie Smith to get the county to investigate the concept of raising the hourly minimum wage paid to workers.

Smith since mid-2016 has talked about the option of raising the minimum wage in the county. She wants to have a county committee created to dig into statistics and bring back a recommendation to the supervisors.

The supervisors voted 3-2 in June to defeat that committee-creation proposal, and several members of the public came to a supervisors meeting in August to ask the board members to reconsider.

Smith raised the topic again Tuesday. On the very next agenda item, under the leadership of Taylor, the supervisors passed a resolution that bypassed the concept of setting a county minimum wage, while affirming a focus "on entrepreneurial conditions" that will contribute to higher wages.

That resolution passed on a 3-2 vote, like in June. Supervisors Taylor, Mark Monson and Matthew Ung voted affirmatively and Smith and Larry Clausen voted against it.

The resolution concluded, "Be it resolved that the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors champions economic growth and higher living wages for all residents, in keeping with the best tradition of improving quality of life and the pursuit of economic and individual prosperity."

"Let's do it through economic development ...and free-market principles," Taylor added.

Clausen criticized the measure passed as limited in details.

"It is a feel-good resolution," Clausen said.

Monson, Taylor and Ung also voted against Smith's proposed amendment to add creating a minimum wage committee as the last sentence of the resolution that passed.

"Minimum wage is not a county function," Monson said.

Monson said there was a "political" calculation to Smith continuing to raise the proposal. Those two are both seeking re-election in 2016, although in two separate districts, so they do not face each other on the ballot.

Smith shared a Sept. 14 opinion piece from the Iowa Policy Project think tank with a headline, "Is it time for Sioux City to join the party?"

"This week, two more counties in Iowa — Linn and Wapello — joined Johnson County in setting a countywide minimum wage. In Linn County, the wage will rise to $10.25 by January 2019, while Wapello County followed Johnson County’s lead in raising the wage to $10.10 in three installments. Polk County is expected to take up a proposal soon to raise the wage there to $10.75 by 2019," the IPP piece read.

Taylor said the Iowa Policy Project is "left-leaning" in policy proposals, while Smith said it is a non-partisan entity that does well in summarizing U.S. Census data in vetting proposals.

Smith said that if census data is extrapolated to Woodbury County, about 10,000 of the existing 51,000 people employed overall would benefit from a higher minimum wage of $10. She said roughly 80 percent of those people would be over age 20, so it would not be the stereotype of "teenager(s) sacking groceries."

Taylor said people should not misrepresent the county as "not caring" for failing to study a minimum wage hike.


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