Ohio Minimum Wage Amendment Clears First Hurdles, Moves Forward

Earlier this month, the Ohio Attorney General approved the summary of a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour as a “fair and truthful” statement of the text of the proposed amendment. Last Friday, the Ohio Ballot Board certified the proposed amendment as a single ballot issue rather than multiple issues that would need to be separated. This clears the way for supporters of the amendment to begin collecting the 305,591 signatures of registered voters required for the amendment to appear on the November 2016 ballot. These signatures will need to be turned in by July 2016 and include a specified number of signatures from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

The current minimum wage in Ohio is $8.10 per hour and goes up annually based upon the rate of inflation. The proposed constitutional amendment would initially raise the minimum wage by $1.90 per hour, on January 1, 2017 and then by an additional fifty cents each year until it reached $12.00 per hour in 2021. Thereafter, the minimum wage would increase based upon yearly inflation as it does now. This would result in a nearly 50 percent increase in the minimum wage over just five years. The amendment would also phase out the ability of employers to pay tipped employees at a rate below minimum wage. The group Stand Up for Ohio, which is a coalition of labor, community, environmental, and civil rights, is behind the ballot initiative.

Groups attempting to increase the minimum wage typically state that doing so will help cure poverty and provide a livable wage. However, a minimum wage increase could actually have drastic unintended consequences for the young, undereducated and those lacking prior work experience. As wages are artificially increased due to government mandate or constitutional amendment, employers are forced to make tough choices. A higher minimum wage makes it less likely that employers will be able to hire and employ less-skilled and less-educated workers and many employees will simply be priced out of the job market. A better approach would be to focus on the state’s workforce development and education efforts. Education and experience can provide a lifetime of opportunity and earning capacity rather than artificially raising the minimum wage for a short-term benefit.