WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Restaurant Association is expressing disappointment that Congress has tied the federal minimum wage increase and tax package to the controversial Iraq spending bill. 
 
The minimum wage/tax package is entirely out of place in the debate concerning funding the war in Iraq, said acting NRA interim president Peter Kilgore. A minimum wage increase will cost the industry jobs, and the discussion of how to minimize this job loss is getting lost in the debate. 
 
"We're disappointed that the current $4.9 billion tax package does not include more targeted tax relief for those employers most impacted, including restaurants," Kilgore said. "The impact of the proposed minimum wage increase is expected to be significant, affecting restaurant employers, employees and the millions of customers they serve."
 
After the last federal wage hike in 1996, Association research revealed that the restaurant industry lost more than 146,000 jobs and operators postponed plans to hire an additional 106,000 employees, Kilgore said. An effective tax package is essential so that small businesses have the necessary resources to offset the consequences of an increase in the minimum wage.

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