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 Kentucky House Passes Bill to Raise Minimum Wage

KENTUCKY (02/10/15) - House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s effort to increase Kentucky’s minimum wage for the first time in nearly six years cleared a major hurdle this afternoon when the Kentucky House of Representatives approved his House Bill 2 by a vote of 56-43.

“Since I first sponsored this legislation last year, I have become even more convinced that we need to take this step,” said Speaker Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “I want to thank my House colleagues who voted for this measure and hope that this is the year it becomes law. It would do so much for hundreds of thousands of families who have waited too long for a raise.”

Under HB 2, the state’s minimum wage would rise in three steps, each less than a dollar a year, from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour by July 2017.

Speaker Stumbo noted that his legislation is similar to the last minimum wage increase the General Assembly passed, which was in 2007. “It received a lot of bipartisan support then, so I cannot understand why it’s not getting the same reception today.”

Information compiled by the Legislative Research Commission, the General Assembly’s administrative arm, found that about 391,000 Kentuckians earn less than $10.10. About 60,000 of those earn the minimum wage or less.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of those making minimum wage are women, and more than half are 22 or older. “Those who believe that most of the people making minimum wage are teenagers are wrong,” Speaker Stumbo said. “The fact is, a lot of families are relying on at least one family member earning a minimum wage, and many of them are single-parent families. Those working full time on this salary only earn about $15,000 a year.”

House Bill 2 would bring that figure up to $19,533, roughly the same earning power the minimum wage had in the late 1960s when adjusted for inflation.

Speaker Stumbo noted that 29 states have increased their minimum wage above the federal minimum. That includes four whose voters approved an increase last November: Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Last fall, meanwhile, the state’s Bluegrass Poll showed that 55 percent of Kentuckians favored the Speaker’s proposal, versus 37 percent who were opposed. The rest were undecided.

In addition to raising the minimum wage, Speaker Stumbo’s bill also provides help to some of the state’s smallest businesses currently exempt from the state’s minimum wage law. The current limit of $95,000 in gross sales, which hasn’t changed since 1976, would rise to $500,000 and would apply to retail stores, service industries, hotels and restaurants.

House Bill 2 has a gender-equity provision as well, to prohibit discrimination based on sex, race or national origin. This would apply in those industries dominated by a particular sex, race or national origin, and would allow for wage differentials based on merit, seniority and productivity.

Information provided by Brian Wilkerson
Posted by J.L. Graham
KenCo News