Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Minimum wage bill approved by Ky. House

The Kentucky House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass legislation that would gradually raise Kentucky’s government-mandated minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by July 2017.

House Bill 2, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) passed 56-43. Rep. Lynn Bechler (R-Marion) voted against the measure.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Kentucky’s current minimum wage, which is tied to the federal minimum wage, is now $7.25 an hour. HB 2 would increase that rate to $8.20 this July, $9.15 in July 2016, and the final rate of $10.10 the following year.

Stumbo said more than 390,000 Kentuckians make less than $10.10 an hour, and that most of those earners are women. He wants to raise the wage gradually to what he called a “living wage” rate of $10.10 an hour as 29 other states and Washington, D.C. have done, he told fellow House members. Businesses that gross less than $500,000 a year (up from the current threshold of $95,000 annually) would be exempt from the wage increase.

“The trend across America is to reach out to those minimum wage workers and give them a living wage,” said Stumbo.

The bill would also prohibit wage discrimination based on gender, race, or national origin for equivalent work, with some exceptions allowed for seniority, merit, or productivity.

If the bill becomes law, it could spread local government thinner.

Crittenden County Judge-Executive Perry Newcom said all county employees are earning above the current minimum wage, but many are earning below the proposed $10.10 rate. So a mandated increase to that hourly rate would cost the county significantly more in salaries each year.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) explained that passing the bill as written could cost the state more than 14,000 jobs based on a recent Kentucky legislative staff report.

“So it’s clear – there would be a loss of jobs,” said Hoover.

Stumbo challenged the study data cited by Hoover.

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