Clinton Pushes Minimum Wage Boost

Saturday, September 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SKANEATELES, N.Y. (AP) — Acknowledging a compromise offer by Republicans, President Clinton pressed Congress on Saturday to resolve differences and pass a bill to raise the minimum wage by $1, benefiting 10 million American workers.

In his Labor Day weekend radio address, Clinton accused GOP leaders in Congress of stalling the measure for more than a year and a half, burdening it with large tax cuts for businesses and trying to spread an increase over three instead of two years.

``It's now time for the Republican leadership to stop riding the brakes on the minimum wage,'' Clinton said in the address he taped during a trip to the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York to attend two fund-raisers for Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign for the Senate.

The White House estimates that about 10 million workers earning between $5.15 and $6.14 an hour would directly benefit by raising the minimum wage $1. For a full-time worker now earning minimum wage, this increase would amount to a $2,000 annual raise.

``That's a modest increase that merely restores the minimum wage to what it was way back in 1982 in real dollar terms,'' the president said.

The House and Senate have passed minimum wage legislation, but efforts toward a compromise have been bogged down for months. Democrats want to use money during these prosperous times to increase the minimum wage. Republicans say that if the minimum wage goes up, then businesses should receive tax breaks to offset higher labor costs.

The possibility of a compromise brightened on Monday when House Speaker Dennis Hastert offered a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour over two years: 50 cents on Jan. 1 and 50 cents on Jan. 1, 2002. The proposal would provide business tax breaks worth $76 billion over 10 years, down from $122.7 billion in an earlier House version of the bill.

Hastert, R-Ill., said in a letter to Clinton that Republicans still wanted the business tax breaks paired with the wage measure, but they agreed to remove proposals to abolish the estate tax and change pension laws, including increased contribution limits for 401(k) plans.

``It is very clear that a vast majority of congressional Democrats and Republicans would like to see a balanced approach achieved before we adjourn,'' Hastert wrote. ``I believe that we can work together to pass this legislation when we return in September with strong bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate.''

But while saying that Hastert's offer had promise, Clinton said lawmakers, who return next week from their summer recess, still have to resolve differences.

``I urge them to send me a minimum wage bill as the first order of business,'' he said. ``It should also include a moderate tax cut package that everyone can agree on, without harmful provisions that would threaten overtime protections.''

The Clintons spent Friday night at a private home in Skaneateles. Before flying back to Washington on Saturday evening, the president planned to play golf with top Democratic fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe and others, including Tom Scherrer, a Syracuse native who in June won the Kemper Open. He also planned to attend the state fair in Syracuse with his wife.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Chelsea Clinton, 20, who accompanied her father on trips last week to Africa and Colombia, originally wanted to join her parents in New York but was not feeling well.

``I think the African trip, the day trip to Colombia and a little bit of a head cold has led her to decide she'd rather just stay around the house here in Washington this weekend,'' Lockhart said Friday.