Even as Democratic candidate for Mississippi governor Brandon Presley pledged to raise the minimum wage if elected, incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves suggested over the weekend that low-wage workers should focus on learning skills that will appeal to employers.
“There aren’t a lot of people in Mississippi that are working for minimum wage now,” he told reporters when asked about his views on the minimum wage at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob Mississippi 2023 event in Jackson on Oct. 26.
Reeves said Presley’s promise to increase the minimum wage is something “every Democrat for the last hundred years” has used as a policy. “Mississippians can get better pay by developing “a skill that is marketable in the workplace,” he continued, echoing similar remarks he made in July when he suggested people who cannot afford health care need “better, higher-paying jobs”—not Medicaid expansion.
Mississippi and four other states—Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee—are the only five that do not have their own minimum-wage laws, meaning the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour applies. Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have minimum-wage laws above the federal level.
Presley has said if elected, he would work with the Legislature’s Republican majorities to raise wages but did not point to a specific number.
“Definitely, $7.25 is not the figure,” the Democrat said at a Tougaloo College forum on Oct. 24.
The last time Mississippi’s lowest-paid workers enjoyed a minimum wage increase was in 2009 after Congress raised the federal minimum by 70 cents from $6.55 an hour to $7.25 an hour.
When the Associated Press’ Emily Wagster Pettus asked Reeves if he wanted to keep the status quo at the Hobnob event, the governor did not clarify his position.
“If the Legislature was to try to enact a (minimum wage) law, we would work on it as it occurred,” he said.
In the 2023 legislative session, Mississippi House Rep. Carl Mickens,
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