U.S. Senate candidate blasts Republican "War on the Poor"
October 22, 2005
Jean Hay Bright, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Maine in 2006, continued to lambaste the Republican "War on the Poor" this past week, citing the federal minimum wage and the LIHEAP home heating assistance situation as examples.

In appearances at Democratic county committee meetings across Maine, Hay Bright criticized the failure of the Republican-controlled Senate to pass an increase in the federal minimum wage, which has been $5.15 per hour since 1997.

"Maine's two Republican Senators this past week both voted against a bill that would have simply raised the minimum wage to $6.25 per hour over an 18-month period. In the very next recorded vote, both Maine Senators then voted in favor of a Republican bill that would have seen the same size increase in the minimum wage, but was coupled with business tax breaks and exemptions." That Republican bill, Hay Bright noted, failed to pass.

"If Republicans wanted to raise the minimum wage, they could have," Hay Bright said. Their companion bill, offered as an alternative to the simple wage increase, was simply a distraction that allowed some Senators to claim they voted to increase the minimum wage, she said.

"In this case, both Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted against an increase in the minimum wage before they voted in favor of it," Hay Bright said. "And the bottom line," the writer and Dixmont organic farmer said, "is that the federal minimum wage remains at a paltry $5.15 an hour.

Hay Bright noted that the state of Maine's minimum wage rose to $6.50 per hour on October 1, so the increase at the federal level to $6.25 per hour would not have adversely impacted Maine small businesses. "Maine's two Senators have no excuse for voting against the simple increase in the federal minimum wage," Hay Bright said.

The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate also noted that the newly-released analysis by the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) showed that the living wage for a single adult in the state of Maine is about $9.23 per hour, with variations across the state ranging from $8.56 per hour in northern and Downeast counties, to $10.41 in the southern part of Maine.

"So even Maine's $6.50 per hour minimum wage is $2 to $4 an hour shy of what a single adult needs to be self-supporting," she noted.

Hay Bright also criticized the Republican-controlled Congress for cutting home heating assistance money that Maine's low income residents desperately need to keep warm this winter. The problem, Hay Bright said, is the draconian attempts by Republicans to pay for war and hurricane-related costs by slashing programs designed to help the least fortunate among us.

Both of Maine's Republican Senators voted in favor of a temporary spending bill to keep the government operating beyond Sept. 30, until the regular appropriations bills could be addressed later next month. That temporary bill actually cut the amount of funding for Maine's LIHEAP program by 75 percent, according to reports at the time, Hay Bright said. Since then Collins and Snowe contend they have been scrambling to get those funds restored, and even increased if possible, in recognition of the steep increase in the cost of home heating oil.

"But they are facing the blatant Republican War on the Poor," Hay Bright said. "The only way we are going to stop the Republicans is to vote them out of office in 2006. And in the state of Maine, the only Republican member we have in Congress who is up for reelection in 2006 is Olympia Snowe."

Hay Bright's schedule this week took her to Democratic County Committee meetings in Bath (Sagadahoc County), East Wilton (Franklin County) and Alfred (York County).