Initiative 151 - the Raise Montana initiative - would raise the state's minimum wage to $6.15 an hour and provide small annual cost-of-living adjustments.
Some business interests are concerned about the annual cost-of-living adjustment. That adjustment would be tied to the Consumer Price Index, already used by the state of Montana for benefits such as retirement and disability benefits, and generally amounts to 1 to 3 percent a year.
Exactly what does this add up to? If the state determined that this year's index was 1 percent, a person making a minimum wage of $6.15 an hour would get a 6-cent hourly raise. If the index was 3 percent, the hourly increase for the minimum wage would be 20 cents. If the index didn't change, the minimum wage wouldn't change.
A 1- to 3-percent annual increase is a small price to pay for a measure that would help reduce poverty in Montana. That extra dollar an hour would help our lowest-paid workers fill their gas tanks, pay their medical bills, purchase school supplies for their children, and even splurge for a few small luxuries.
A higher minimum wage would also encourage young Montanans to stay in the state rather than seek the higher-paying jobs found in almost any other state.
Both Congress and the Montana Legislature have consistently refused to raise the minimum wage, so it's up to Montana voters to give 30,000 hard-working Montanans a raise. Vote yes for I-151 on Nov. 7.