Minimum wage hike a boon for state budgets?

An effort to raise the Massachusetts minimum wage by $3 per hour has run into static on Beacon Hill, where business groups have protested the size of the wage hike, and demanded that any minimum wage increase come paired with cost savings in unemployment insurance. The fight has taken shape along predictable lines, with a coalition labor unions, religious groups, and liberal activists and politicians on one side, and business groups and fiscally conservative lawmakers on the other.

In California , though, the state minimum wage fight has taken on an entirely different dynamic: A conservative millionaire is championing the wage hike as a tool for shrinking the state budget.

Today’s New York Times  spotlights the minimum wage campaign of Ron Unz . Unz made millions in Silicon Valley. He’s a former publisher of the American Conservative . He ran for California governor as a Republican in 1994, and he successfully led ballot campaigns ending bilingual education in California, Massachusetts, and Arizona . And now, he’s putting his millions to work on a ballot campaign aimed at raising California’s minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2016.

Unz isn’t pushing the wage hike because he’s had a liberal epiphany. Instead, he tells the Times that a robust minimum wage is the ultimate check on government spending. The low minimum wage, Unz argues, has created an underclass of workers who remain dependent on social welfare programs, like food stamps and publicly-subsidized health care, despite being employed.

“This would save something on the order of tens of billions of dollars,” Unz argues. “Doesn’t it make more sense for employers to pay their workers than the government?”

Unz’s minimum wage stance — shrink the government by paying workers enough to fend for themselves — challenges orthodoxies on both sides of the political spectrum. He’s yet to move either side far from their well-trod ground. After previously calling a Democratic-led bid to raise the state minimum wage a “job killer,” the state chamber of commerce declined comment on Unz’s ballot campaign. A spokesman for the California Labor Federation questioned Unz’s motivations, telling the Times , “He has not shown a great deal of support for workers’ issues in the past,” before adding, “But he is saying some things that are the same as what we’ve been saying all along.”

–PAUL MCMORROW

      

BEACON HILL

Deep inhale: Former US Rep. William Delahunt seeks three medical marijuana licenses.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

A commission appointed by Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch and led by a former DPW director has recommended raises for 67 city employees, including a 30 percent salary hike for the mayor.    

The Peabody Licensing Board, citing violence and disturbances at Oliveira’s Steak House, rules that the restaurant cannot serve alcohol after 10 pm. The restaurant’s new owner blames rowdies from Lynn, the Salem News reports.    

Rockport ups the rental payments on land it leases on Long Beach to 154 people. The increase doesn’t sound like much, but the people are complaining because they also pay property taxes on both the land and their homes on the land, the Gloucester Times reports

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON   

Governing examines job growth this year by state, finding little evidence of major increases. Massachusetts added 39,800 jobs for a 1.2 percent increase. 

The Atlantic maps out the marijuana legalization movement’s 2014 playbook. 

NEWTOWN MASSACRE

A report on the shooting last year at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School does not uncover a motive for Adam Lanza‘s attack but unveils some new information, including Lanza’s obsession with mass shootings.

ELECTIONS

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua conceded victory to Daniel Rivera on a Spanish-language radio station, while suggesting racist media were responsible for his loss. “If my name were John Sullivan and I looked like some of you, my face would be on the cover of Money magazine or Forbes because of what I’ve done,” Lantigua said after the broadcast, the Eagle-Tribune reports. NECN’s report has no mention of the racism charges. 

CASINOS  

Mohegan Sun, whose casino plan was shot down by voters in Palmer, may look to team up with Suffolk Downs in a Revere-only casino plan, the Globe reports

BUSINESS/ECONOMY 

Though economic growth is weak in the region, The MetroWest Daily News notes that Massachusetts can be thankful that its economy remains one of the strongest.  

That 32-inch HDTV for $98 on sale at Walmart on Thursday? You have to go to Rhode Island or New Hampshire because Massachusetts Blue Laws will keep retail stores shuttered on Thanksgiving. Which is just as well, because huge retail discounts are largely bogus, anyway.

A proposed change in state law would allow craft brewers to switch beer distributors at will as long as the brand doesn’t represent more than 20 percent of the distributor’s sales.   

A baseball team that will play in the collegiate Futures League next summer starts to take shape in Worcester, the Telegram & Gazette reports.   

Big banks are paying for past housing boom sins, writes CommonWealth‘s Paul McMorrow in his weekly Globe column, but the fines are coming much too late.   

CHARITIES   

A new study finds that people who claim a religious affiliation are more likely to give to charities than those who do not.   

EDUCATION  

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted for a two-year delay scrapping the MCAS and replacing it with the new Common Core-aligned PARCC exam. 

Some people without high school diplomas are rushing to finish their GED before the test gets tougher and more expensive next year.   

Intro computer science is the hot course at Harvard, whose president (more than a century ago) defended classical education by saying “practical” ends “should seldom be thought of or alluded to in a college.”

New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio tries to be nice to David Dinkins, and walks into a fight over how to fund his ambitious education agenda. Dinkins favors a tax on suburban commuters to de Blasio’s proposed plan to tax New York City’s wealthy residents.

HEALTH CARE  

State officials freeze all new admissions at a Brookline psychiatric hospital that has a history of citations for understaffing and poor staff training. 

TRANSPORTATION 

Gas tax index foes are playing fast with the facts, State House News reports. Some of the foes are also Boston Herald columnists. 

New York City transportation advocates are putting together a proposal for congestion pricing for tolls on the East River bridges, but they are being careful not to mention congestion pricing, the New York Times reports. Tom Keane says Oregon may have the right idea by taxing drivers based on miles driven, not via a gas tax. 

A California state judge blocks an $8 billion bond issuance connected to the state’s proposed Los Angeles to San Francisco high-speed rail line.   

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT  

A new scientific study suggests the United States is spewing far more methane into the atmosphere than previously estimated. Most of the heat-trapping gas is coming from Texas, Oklahoma,and Kansas, primarily from livestock and leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, the Huffington Post reports.  

CRIMINAL JUSTICE 

A survey whose findings are being presented tonight describes the burden high incarceration rates, often for nonviolent drug offenses, take on Boston’s black community. 

Suspected gang members in Worcester allegedly get their hands on sealed grand jury records and post them online to intimidate a victim in a shooting case, the Telegram & Gazette reports

A 62-year-old mall Santa was barred from his role after he was arrested and charged with indecent assault after he allegedly groped a worker at the Hanover Mall over the weekend. 

An off-duty state trooper was allegedly high on crack and drunk when he drove into a state police cruiser conducting a traffic stop on Route 1 in Revere, the Item reports.

MEDIA

Katie Couric joins Yahoo as its global anchor. She joins several former reporters from the New York Times as the website goes big time and moves into the old Times building, the Daily Beast reports.