Difference in opinion when it comes to Polk County's minimum wage proposal

Local leaders weigh in on possible minimum wage increase

By Orko Manna | omanna@weareiowa.com

Published 08/25 2016 10:29PM

Updated 08/25 2016 10:29PM

DES MOINES - A task force approved a proposal that would bump up the minimum wage in Polk County.

It would increase a little each year until it reaches $10.75 for adults by 2019. If the proposes plan passes, it will affect all employers across Polk County - public or private. But each individual city has the right to opt in or out of the pay increase.

The idea of raising the minimum wage here in Polk County is something many local leaders want to see. But when it comes down to putting it into practice, who it could affect is causing a difference in opinion.

"It's unfair I think for workers and it's unfair for businesses not to have the same rules," said West Des Moines Mayor Steven Gaer.
Gaer says fairness is what is at the crux of Polk County's minimum wage issue. West Des Moines falls between Polk and Dallas counties - which poses a problem.
"If Polk County does the increase and Dallas County doesn't match it, we would have different minimum wages in the city of West Des Moines which is something that we just can't accept," Gaer said.
For example, minimum wage earners at retail shops at Valley Junction would benefit from the increase, but not those at Jordan Creek Mall. That's because they are in different counties - although they are both in West Des Moines.
So what can be done?
"We've been advocating that it really needs to be done by the state legislature, so it's consistent across the state," Gaer said.
But not everyone is on the same page.
"I don't agree that we should wait and see what the legislatures going to do with this," said Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie.
Cownie says he wants to see state-wide consistency too, but says a minimum wage increase in Polk County is a step in the right direction.
"It is starling to respect the reality that $7.25 at a full time job around $14,000 a year is really tough for somebody to pay their taxes, put food on the table, put gas in the tank and pay rent," Cownie said.
Gaer agrees with the idea of raising the minimum wage. But he says if the Polk County Board of Supervisors approves the proposal, the City of West Des Moines might not even adopt the change.
"We really don't want to opt out, but at the end of the day, we need the same minimum wage in both counties," Gaer said.
Gaer says he, along with the West Des Moines City Council, will be pushing for a higher minimum wage for all Iowans at the state capitol, once the session opens back up in 2017.
The task force will now send the minimum wage increase proposal to the Polk County Board of Supervisors by October.


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