A push to change state’s minimum wage law

We are no fans of constantly throwing the same ballot initiatives in front of the voters time and again, hoping against hope ballot fatigue will set in and the voters will eventually acquiesce.

But there are exceptions.

It’s certainly not surprising that state union leaders are resisting a proposal to start the repeal process for an initiative approved by voters just four and a half years ago. “This is the law of the land today because of the people of the state of Nevada,” Danny Thompson, the state AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer reportedly “thundered” at the suggestion those same voters be given the opportunity to now repeal the state’s enhanced minimum wage law passed in November 2006. “It received more votes in (two) elections than any other issue on the ballot. To come and say undo it is a slap in the face of the people of Nevada.” (Italics ours.)

Well, no. It simply would be asking the voters whether they might, more than three years hence, the earliest date for which it could appear on the ballot, have changed their minds given the state’s starkly different economic circumstances.

Back when voters approved setting Nevada’s minimum wage at $1 higher than the federal minimum wage and indexing for inflation, the minimum wage was $5.15 an hour and the unemployment rate was 4.4 percent. Today the minimum wage is a healthy $8.25 — well on it’s way to $10 — but the Las Vegas jobless rate is 14.9 percent.

Coincidence?

“Many employers,” we wrote days before the 2006 election, “when confronted with a mandate to boost the wages of their least-productive workers by 60 percent overnight, will simply choose to let some of them go; the numbers won’t justify that great a raise without a commensurate increase in output.”

Maybe it’s time to ask the voters if they believe us now.

The repeal proposal by state Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, would have to be approved by the Legislature this year and again in 2013 before Nevadans would have another say on it in 2014. Mr. Hardy, testifying on behalf of his bill in front of the Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee, noted Nevada is one of 14 states, including California, with minimum wages higher than the federal minimum wage.

“We are pricing ourselves out of the market to attract business and jobs to Nevada,” Mr. Hardy said.

The chances of the bill even getting out of committee are doubtful. But maybe the voters — many of whom are now without jobs and perhaps willing to offer their skills for a dollar less per hour as they drive around town past shuttered storefronts and completely empty office buildings — might not be so easily duped a couple of years from now into being generous with other people’s money.

Let’s hear the debate and give the voters a chance to reconsider, now that they have been slapped in the face by economic reality.

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