State lawmakers could squash Lee County minimum wage hike

FORT MADISON, Iowa -- Leaders in Lee County, Iowa, have voted to raise the county's minimum wage, but state lawmakers could squash the hike before it even takes effect.

On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, the Lee County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $8.20 an hour. The county's current minimum wage is $7.25.

"We have a lot of folks that are disadvantaged in Lee County, and hopefully this will help them by receiving a few more dollars each pay period," said Rick Larkin, chair of the Board of Supervisors.

The increase is scheduled to go into effect on May 1, 2017.

However, a bill currently sitting on Governor Terry Branstad's desk would roll back that increase and set a statewide minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Counties and local governments would not be allowed to raise it.

"The state coming in and preempting us from doing this, in my opinion, it's not a step in the right direction, and it limits what we can do in the county," said Larkin.

Some small business owners in Fort Madison, though, hope the minimum wage stays the same.

Fiona Macken, owner of Dawgs n Divas, said she'd like to hire a part-time employee, but a minimum wage hike would put that idea even further out of reach.

"Well, $7.25 is out of my ballpark anyway. So, by them raising it.... I can't do that. There's no way," said Macken. "As it is right now, I can't. I can't afford to do it."

Lawmakers in both the Iowa House and Senate have already passed the statewide minimum wage bill.

If signed, it would roll back increases in five counties, including Lee, Johnson, Polk, Linn and Wapello.