LOS ANGELES (AP) — An attempt to persuade California voters this year to approve a $12-an-hour minimum wage, which would be the highest among states, stalled Monday after its chief supporter announced he was struggling to qualify the proposal for the ballot.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Republican maverick Ron Unz said in a statement he had been unable to line up major donors to contribute to the cost of gathering more than 500,000 petition signatures, a required step to place the idea before voters.
“It seems unlikely that my measure will be on the November ballot, which is obviously a major disappointment to me,” he said.
The 52-year-old Unz is an unlikely champion for an idea often associated with Democrats — he’s a former publisher of The American Conservative magazine who has run long-shot campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate. He has a history of against-the-grain political activism that includes pushing a 1998 ballot proposal that dismantled California’s bilingual education system, an idea he later championed in Colorado and other states.
Unz argued the higher wage would boost the economy and lift low-paid workers from dependency on food stamps and other taxpayer assistance.
He had described the proposed wage jump as “a gigantic economic stimulus package.”
The theoretical-physicist-turned-software-developer said he had attempted to team up with one of the state’s larger unions or an individual donor to help finance the campaign, but the political alliances didn’t work out.
He said he was hopeful the state Legislature, dominated by Democrats, would approve a law requiring the higher wage. President Barack Obama is supporting a bill in Congress that would elevate the $7.25 federal minimum to more than $10 an hour.
Unz’s proposal would have increased the minimum wage in two steps - to $10 an hour in 2015, and $12 the following year, which would be the highest among states at current levels.
In an interview earlier this year, the multimillionaire declined to provide specifics on his personal wealth — he founded Wall Street Analytics, Inc., which was acquired by Moody’s Corp. in 2006.
He said while some media reports incorrectly described him as a billionaire, and had spent recent months attempting to raise money to help finance the campaign. In 1998, he spent $750,000 on his ballot proposal that dismantled the state’s bilingual education system.
The wage proposal could have become a tricky issue for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who is seeking another term and just signed a law that will raise California’s minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016. Businesses would have been unlikely to welcome another boost.