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McConnell reiterates opposition to minimum wage increase, despite poll

by Joe Arnold


Posted on February 14, 2014 at 6:47 PM

Updated Saturday, Feb 15 at 1:49 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Despite a WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll which showed 61 percent of Kentucky voters support an increase in the minimum wage, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) doubled down on his opposition to the wage hike on Friday while accepting the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Business.

"My main concern is not what the polls are, but what's the right policy," McConnell said after WHAS11 asked of the political dangers of his position.  "And we know for sure that this kind of minimum wage increase is going to be a job killer."

McConnell stressed it is an especially bad idea amid a tenuous economic recovery.

"(It) seems to me the last thing we want to do now in the fifth year of this jobless recovery is eliminate even more jobs," McConnell said.

The debate over whether to raise the minimum wage is emerging as a key contrast between the five-term Republican incumbent and Democrat challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, who supports the wage hike, in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.

"The reason this is coming up right now is because it tests well," McConnell said.  "And so they're trying to change the subject away from Obamacare."

Jonathan Hurst, a senior adviser to the Grimes campaign, said it was "shameful" that McConnell has received congressional pay raises while rejecting the minimum wage increase. 

"Unlike McConnell, who tears down Kentuckians every chance he gets and sides with Washington and Wall Street," Hurst said in a statement, "our campaign is about helping real people. In the Senate, Alison Lundergan Grimes will stand up for the middle class." 

Hurst cited a study which estimated 255,000 women - a key voting bloc, would benefit from a minimum wage increase.

"The minimum wage is for the most part an entry level wage for a lot of young people," McConnell countered.  "Young people have paid a heavy price for this administration: joblessness, Obamacare is now hitting them, massive student loan debt. The last thing we need to do is to create a situation in which we have even fewer jobs for young people who have suffered tremendously under this administration."

McConnell answered reporters' questions after accepting the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Business.  The small business group praised McConnell's leadership in the fight against the implementation of "Obamacare."

McConnell called it "a poll tested issue that actually while it may make you look good to advocate it, doesn't help produce jobs, in fact it destroys jobs."

Business owner Dan Winthrop hosted McConnell's event, praising him for fighting the Affordable Care Act and the minimum wage increase.

Though his 17-employee company, CCS Distribution Group, falls well under the 50 employee mark which requires employers to provide health insurance, Winthrop said Obamacare has stifled his expansion plans.

"As soon as this came out, I said ahhh.. we just were in the process of looking at companies around the country," Winthrop said, explaining that he is reticent to approach the 50 employee mark.

Winthrop said a minimum wage increase would cost jobs.

"We've got to find that money somewhere," Winthrop said.  "We can't just simply raise the price to our customers. They're not going to pay it.  So, it either comes out of our bottom line or we go negative. in other words, we have to reduce our employee staff."

"Kentucky's got an unemployment rate above the national average," McConnell said.  "We've got a depression in the coal fields, Obamacare is destroying jobs right and left, we have a record number of part time employees in our country as a result of Obamacare. The last thing it seems to me we ought to be doing is destroying jobs."

Republican primary challenger Matt Bevin also opposes Obamacare and the minimum wage increase.

"Those proposing an increase in the minimum wage do not understand how jobs are created in the private sector," Bevin said in a statement to WHAS11.  "It is a fact that arbitrarily increasing the minimum wage hurts efforts to produce entry level positions and comes at the expense of the very individuals and families who most need access to the job market."