Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina General Assembly and one of seven Republicans vying to challenge U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D), said raising the minimum wage is "a dangerous idea," and that the minimum wage itself is an "artificial threshold," the Raleigh News & Observer reported Wednesday.
"I think for the most part the market needs to define it," Tillis said. "When we create artificial thresholds, then you run into a big problem. And I think we need to know that there's a segment of the population that relies on the minimum wage, but there are alot of jobs that go beyond the minimum wage, but for the most part, we have to have the market more than anything drive what an employer is going to pay for a job."
Congressional Democrats have offered a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and peg it to inflation.
"I have serious concerns with the discussion around the minimum wage because it drives up costs and it could harm jobs," Tillis said. "Obviously we want people to be paid a wage that can help make ends meet. But when you increase artificially the cost of labor to do a job, then oftentimes those jobs will just go away. And I think this is at least what's been proposed in Washington is a dangerous idea. I think there are better ways to create more jobs and more opportunities for higher-paying jobs."
Hagan's campaign criticized Tillis' remarks Wednesday, tying the candidate's position on the minimum wage to the support he has garnered from outside special interest groups, including the Koch-backed conservative group Americans for Prosperity. AFP, which has spent more than $8 million in ads in the state, opposes raising the minimum wage.
Sadie Weiner, Hagan's communications director, said in a release Thursday that Tillis' opposition to raising the minimum wage indicates that special interests are "pulling Tillis' strings."
“Thom Tillis let the special interests run wild in Raleigh leaving North Carolina families hanging out to dry, and this is the latest sign he’ll do the same in Washington,” Weiner said. “Increasing the minimum wage would raise wages for over one million North Carolinians, but Tillis is so fringe he has suggested there shouldn’t even be a minimum wage. Thom Tillis needs to stop granting face time based on who has the biggest checkbook and start listening to North Carolina.”
Tillis also told reporters Wednesday that his visit to Aspen, Colo. this week to appear with hedge funder and GOP donor Paul Singer was due to their agreement on “fiscal policy.” Singer believes a minimum wage increase would "destroy" jobs.
A recent poll from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found that 56 percent of North Carolinians support raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour.
CORRECTION: The article incorrectly stated that Hagan opposed raising the minimum wage, which was corrected to describe Tillis' opposition.