Group seeks to place raise on '06 ballot

The minimum wage in Ohio is $4.25 per hour.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- A labor-led coalition said Tuesday it would ask voters next year to give Ohioans their first minimum-wage increase in 16 years, framing the issue as a moral obligation.
Ohio is one of two states, along with Kansas, to have a state minimum wage lower than the federal minimum of $5.15 per hour. Ohio's minimum has been $4.25 since 1991.
The group wants to increase the minimum to $6.85 in Ohio.
Collecting signatures
Backers plan to collect the 322,000 signatures of registered voters needed to put the issue on next November's ballot, said Tim Burga, a lobbyist for the Ohio AFL-CIO. If passed, the new minimum would take effect Jan. 1, 2007. Burga said volunteers collected about 45,000 signatures outside polling places during the election earlier this month.
"Ohioans are both shocked and moved when they learn the Ohio minimum wage is $4.25 per hour and the federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour," Burga said.
Burga pointed to the success of a ballot issue in Florida in 2004 to increase minimum wages by $1 an hour. Congress has consistently shot down attempts to raise the basic wage since last increasing the federal limit in 1997.
Senate Democratic leader C.J. Prentiss of Cleveland, who has a minimum-wage increase bill stalled in the Senate, said Ohio workers formerly on welfare have struggled since limits were put on benefits in 1996.
"What's waiting for those who say we value work?" Prentiss said.