January 29

Maine delegation likes middle-class focus

But concerns are raised about talk of bypassing Congress on issues and support for trade pacts.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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President Barack Obama waves after giving his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio applaud.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

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“Maine’s current $7.50 per hour minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was forty years ago and substantially lower than its peak in 1968,” Martin wrote in an email. “The proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would boost our economy and improve the ability of one in five or 120,000 Maine workers to make ends meet based on analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.”

The president also made reference to two major free trade deals under negotiation and urged Congress to authorize the administration to fast-track those deals. Michaud has been a vocal critic of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal that the White House is finalizing with nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

“I see some of the direction of where he is going as contrary to what he said in his speech, particularly when you look at the fast-track trade legislation,” Michaud said. “The outsourcing of the middle class overseas is a huge concern that I have. I agree with the president on ‘Made in America’ but quite frankly I haven’t seen the president move aggressively in that regard.”

In his address, Obama said that “upward mobility has stalled” across the country as rising corporate profits and stock prices led to record earnings for those “at the top” while “average wages have barely budged.”

Maine’s income gap is smaller than the national average but has outpaced some states in recent years. From 2008 to 2012, the state moved from having the 11th smallest income gap to the 15th smallest, according to federal statistics.

At the same time, the median household income in the state fell 2.4 percent – from $50,363 to $49,158 – from 2008 to 2012, after adjusting for inflation. Nationally, household incomes fell 4.9 percent during that time, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

The president announced that Vice President Joe Biden will lead an effort to reform job-training programs. Specifically, he said he would push for more on-the-job training.

That’s a message likely to draw bipartisan support, including in Maine where Republican Gov. Paul LePage has made job training a high priority. Maine business owners and labor officials said that even during the depths of the recession, there were not enough high-skilled workers to fill vacancies.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at kmiller@pressherald.com

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