Washington, D.C.—Reacting to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, U.S. Representative Tom Petri (R-WI) called for a debate about helping low income families work their way out of poverty. In his annual address to Congress, President Obama proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
“Congress and the American people heard loud and clear the President’s desire to raise the minimum wage to help low income families,” said Petri after the speech. “In fact, I agree that low income workers—especially those trying to raise a family—should have the means to support themselves and work their way out of poverty. However, I disagree that raising the minimum wage is the best approach.
“To many, raising the minimum wage sounds appealing—pay people more so they will have more to spend. However, it’s businesses—and mostly small businesses—that would shoulder the cost of such an increase, meaning many workers would be priced out of jobs. The President’s proposal could actually harm the same people he is seeking to help.
“If the American people decide it’s a good idea to give low-wage workers a raise, we should consider how to put our money behind our generosity rather than putting all the cost on businesses. We should look for a way to help lift working families out of poverty without eliminating the very jobs they need to move up the economic ladder.
“There are other options—some that already exist—to accomplish the same goal. For instance, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has been very successful in helping to lift working families out of poverty. There are ways we could strengthen this program. There are also wage subsidy proposals that would help support low income workers while likely expanding job opportunities.
“I am working on legislation now that would address this issue and help working families earn a better life.
“There are many in Congress—on both sides of the aisle—who want to help those who are working and living in poverty. So, rather than moving forward with a ‘go it alone strategy,’ I call on the President to engage in debate with Congress on this issue so we can pass constructive legislation that moves us toward that goal.”