Archive for January 28th, 2009

by jhwygirl

Today was the Senate Business, Labor & Economic Affairs committee hearing for SB254, and SB253, which would allow an employer tip credit against the minimum wage, both proposed by Sen. Donald J Steinbeisser.

SB254 would eliminate increases to minimum wage based on the cost of living index (normally around 2.5 to 3 percent per year), freezing it at the current $6.90 per hour. SB253 would allow employers a tip exemption for the hourly wage, allowing them to deduct tips from the hourly wage to an amount of the current $6.90 per hour.

Tipped employees wages would freeze at $6.90 an hour providing their tips made up any increases in minimum wage.

Adding further mess to Steinbeisser’s two proposed bills, in SB253, the minimum wage would be indexed to inflation. It just “sticks it” to tipped wage earners.

Montana is one of the few states that does not allow a tip credit – but I’ll also point out that Montana ranks at the bottom of the list of state’s in terms of median income.

Montana’s minimum wage was increased by inflation because of overwhelming support for Initiative 151. That initiative passed with a vote of 285,535 to 107,294. Sen. Donald J Steinbeisser wants to reverse that.

How’s them’s bananas?

SB254 was blogged about here. Please note that there was no executive action (i.e., vote) taken today, and it is not too late to contact the committee members, letting them know how you would like them to vote. Contact information is in that post.

But who was there to testify in favor of the tip credit SB253? Restaurant lobbyists and owners were apparently there in force: Brad Griffin of the Montana Restaurant Association; Blu Funk of Restaurant Showtime in Big Fork and Chairman of the Montana Restaurant Associaton; Jon Bennion of the Montana Chamber of Commerce; Hu Hot’s owner Linda Vap from Missoula, who owns 3 Hu Hot’s; Casey Ryan, owner of Famous Dave’s and Applebee’s in both Missoula and Bozeman; Rob Smith, of Outback Steakhouse’s; Bob Miller of the Bearclaw Bar & Grill in Mcallister. In general, restaurant owners testified that they can not meet these increases in wages – that tipped employees were taking home more in tips than their managers make, in amounts of more than $1,300 a month in the rural towns in central Montana, at places like Eddie’s Corner, a truck stop.

Opponent Keith Kelly, Commissioner of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry testified that this bill would apply to a huge swath of positions – not just waiters and waitresses – people like taxi drivers, hotel staff, and barbers and beauticians. He noted that while the committee had heard from restaurateurs that faced rising costs, but he questioned by the increase in costs to the employee weren’t being focused on – that the employees faced increase costs in gas and groceries and every day costs. That it is these people, in the lowest wage scales, that spend their money in the market – so cutting wages is contradictory to trying to help the economy. “It spirals the economy down quicker,” he said. Kelly questioned why people who leave tips should be leaving tips to help an employer meet minimum wage. Isn’t that the obligation of the employer? Kelly noted that few people make 20% tips, from surveys that they have conducted.

{{applause for Keith Kelly, please}}

Testimony for SB254 went essentially the same way with the same people.

All in all, I have to say, I don’t buy it. Cutting wages and holding back on wage increases simply is the wrong way to go in this economy. Virtually all economists agree with that. In congress, right now, they are working very hard – people like Senators Baucus and Tester – to get money back into the hands of regular people on Main Street.

by jhwygirl

Only 75 hearings between Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, folks! /snark

First off, on Thursday the House Fish, Wildlife & Parks committee will hear HB253, the Wild Buffalo Recovery and Conservation Act, propose by Rep. Mike Phillips and Rep. Ted Washburn, both of Bozeman.

Please take the time to read this post and contact the committee members, whether by email or phone call. Contact information is in that post.

Also on Thursday – Sen. Christine Kaufman has HB259 which would institute a state earned income credit equal to the federal earned income credit. Me likes. This is in Senate Taxation – Lee Heiman the staffer

On Friday: Can you believe we’ve got a law that forbids liquor stores from being adjacent to grocery stores? What if the liquor store was there first? Lord, the ridiculous laws we’ve got…Rep. Cheryl Steenson has HB352 that would change that. In House Business & Labor, Bart Campbell the staffer,

Rep. Michele Reinhart has HB279 that would prohibit MDOT from recovering indirect costs from local governments for certain programs financed by federal funds through MDOT. Local goverments think this one is important, folks – and so should you as a taxpayer. Why should MDOT charge local governments for services that they get from federal programs? Ludicrous. This one in House Transportation – Rachel Weiss the staffer,

Rep. Edie McClaferty is looking for funding for Head Start in HB369. This bill would provide for administrative oversight of state supplemental funding. Its in House Education, Jeremy Gersovitz the staffer,

Rep. Chuck Hunter has sponsored HB280 which would provide limited funding to nonfederally funded community health centers. This one is in House Appropriations, Jon Moe the staffer,

In the Senate on Friday we’ve got SB180 proposed by Sen. Ron Erickson. It established emission standards for vehicles. Now – consider that California is the 5th largest economy in the world and they have emission standards, and you’ll see that setting these would have no effect on the cost of vehicles. Let’s hope it can get some support, hint, hint. It’s in House Natural Resources, Joe Kolman the staffer

There you go folks…there’s plenty more, check it out. Write a letter, send an email – make a call. It’s your government.


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