Poll: 79% of Arkansans Want $8.50 Minimum Wage

Published 04/10 2014 02:15PM

Updated 04/10 2014 02:16PM

AROUND ARKANSAS -- Raising the minimum wage is a current debate in our nation's capital and in Arkansas.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and in Arkansas it is $6.25.

A new Talk Business-Hendrix College poll showed a majority of Arkansans support a minimum wage hike to $8.50 an hour. When 1,000 Arkansans were asked how they would vote on a measure to raise that wage over three years, 79-percent said yes compared to 17-percent who said no. Four-percent said they were not sure.

"The thing about the minimum wage is that the cost and the benefits don't necessarily go to the same people... It's very hard to talk about increasing the minimum wage when people are being laid off by the thousands. At this point in time, we do see employment steadily improving across the country, across the state, across the region," said Kathy Deck, an economist at the University of Arkansas.

A stronger local economy means talks of minimum wage, especially among workers.

"You can work full time at minimum wage and not even be close to having enough money to say, support yourself or a family. It's very difficult to make rent, buy food, buy clothes, all the things that we need in a modern world if you're working full time at minimum wage... If you don't have the number of hours you work cut, then that's more money in your pocket."

But Deck explains businesses balancing a new budget might choose to cut hours or hire fewer people.

"Small businesses, big businesses, all businesses, anyone who pays workers budgets for a year figures out how many hours they can hire their employees. Obviously, any increase in that minimum means that those employers are going to have to pay more."

So raising the minimum wage might mean higher prices for certain goods and services.

"The problem is, it does cost businesses. It ultimately is going to cost consumers."

For this hike to become reality in Arkansas, these discussions would have to turn into proposed legislation and it would move through the legislature like any other issue. Minimum wage is a topic that Deck said will always have to be adjusted based on the local economy.

(KNWA, Fayetteville)

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