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QUINN NOT INTERESTED IN NEW MINIMUM-WAGE BILL

Liberal Democrats began a new push for another minimum-wage increase Tuesday, but the man who pushed a wage hike through the House last year, Rep. Jack F. Quinn, isn't signing on to the Democratic proposal.

"My view is that we haven't even implemented the second phase of last year's increase yet," said Quinn, R-Hamburg. "It's premature to look at this until next year, after we've had the second phase and we've seen its effect."

The second, 40-cent phase of last year's 90-cent hike in the minimum wage is set to take effect Sept. 1. Under the bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. David Bonier, D-Mich., the bottom wage would increase from $5.15 this September to $7.25 by the year 2002.

Quinn acknowledged that last year's wage hike, which conservatives claimed would wreck the economy, has done anything but that. Unemployment is low and the economy continues to grow.

"The preliminary effects are all very positive," Quinn said.

Nevertheless, he said other moderate Republicans in the House -- who would have to team with Democrats to pass the new proposal -- are not interested in a wage hike at this time. For that reason, Quinn also questioned whether the Democratic sponsors of the proposal might be offering it now merely to put pressure on Republicans.

"I have to wonder if there are not some political shenanigans at play," Quinn said.

At a press conference announcing the bill, Kennedy and Bonier repeatedly linked it to current negotiations on a tax-cut and a budget-balancing bill. They contended that another minimum wage hike was necessary to counter GOP-backed tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy.

"The GOP strategy is: plums for the rich, and crumbs for everyone else," Kennedy said.

Bonier acknowledged that Quinn led the Republican faction that forced last year's wage hike through the House, but added that when he and Kennedy first pursued that increase two years ago, there was virtually no GOP support.

Republicans joined the cause slowly, and Bonier said he expects that to happen again on the new wage hike proposal.

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