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Kentucky House OKs legislation to gradually raise state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour

The Kentucky House has voted 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. It 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 over 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.

An amendment to HB 2 that would increase the minimum wage to $8 an hour beginning this July 1 and adjust the rate annually based on the average annual percentage change in the consumer price index was called for a vote by House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown. Hoover explained that passing the bill as written could cost the state over 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—who challenged the study data cited by Hoover–said the proposed amendment would only buoy the minimum wage for one year. The proposal was ultimately defeated by a vote of 33 to 56.

Those opposing HB 2 included Rep. Tim Couch, R-Hyden, a small business owner who shared a news report that Couch said indicates employment in Kentucky’s eastern coal industry in 2014 was about half of what it was in 2009. “Where I live at, it will devastate it,” he said.

Stumbo said Gov. Steve Beshear reports that Kentucky opened 340 new businesses and brought in 15,000 new jobs last year alone. “No one should believe that this bill is going to cost anybody any jobs,” he said.

From Legislative Research Commission

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