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CAMPAIGN 2000

House Speaker Offers Deal on Minimum Pay

August 29, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) offered Monday to push legislation boosting the minimum wage by $1 over two years without making the increase contingent on two key tax cuts that drew objections from President Clinton. Democrats expressed cautious optimism that a deal could be struck.

Hastert said in a letter to the president that Republicans still want a $76-billion package of business tax breaks to accompany the wage measure but would remove proposals to abolish the estate tax and to change pension laws, including increased contribution limits for 401(k) plans. Both are subjects of separate bills.

Democrats have long sought to increase the $5.15-an-hour federal minimum wage, but Republicans have said tax breaks are needed to cushion the higher costs that would fall on businesses. The Senate and House have passed different versions of such legislation, but efforts at compromise have stalled.

"It is very clear that a vast majority of congressional Democrats and Republicans would like to see a balanced approach achieved before we adjourn," Hastert said in the letter to Clinton. "I believe that we can work together to pass this legislation when we return in September with strong bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate."

According to Clinton administration estimates, about 10 million workers earning from $5.15 to $6.14 an hour would be directly helped by a $1 minimum wage increase. For a full-time worker now earning minimum wage, it would amount to a $2,000 annual raise.

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