Skip to Main Content

Public Affairs

Minimum Wage Hike Plan Advances Amid Partisan Rift

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) believes it’s time to raise the minimum wage, and he muscled his plan through the House yesterday with the predictability of a partisan split.

Stumbo’s House Bill 2 gradually raises the state’s minimum wage over three years from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by July 2017. The bill exempts small businesses with gross profits less than $500,000 a year. Other exemptions include those employed in agriculture, tipped workers and baby sitters. The last time Kentucky lawmakers raised the wage was in 2007.

Pay Equity Provisions

House Bill 2 also contains pay equity provisions. Stumbo explained that females who do the same type of work in Kentucky as men are paid $.76 on the dollar to their male counterparts. In his words, “that’s not equitable or right.” Representative Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville), who crafted the bill’s equal pay components, couldn’t agree more.

Opposing Arguments to Wage Hike Plan

Several lawmakers protested what they perceive as an artificial inflation of the minimum wage and insisted that marketplace economics should drive up wages instead. House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) cited a recent Legislative Research Commission study showing that more than 14,000 people would lose their jobs as a result of the proposed wage boost. He offered, what he considered, a more palatable approach to elevating wages.

Speaker Stumbo blasted Hoover’s move as a “crumb amendment” and claimed that it doesn’t bring low-wage earners in line with a living wage and improve their buying power. But, freshman Republican Phil Moffett (R-Louisville) sought to upend Stumbo’s argument and predicts a greater strain on school finances with a potential $40 million unfunded mandate.

House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover’s amendment was defeated 33 – 56. When it was time to vote on Stumbo’s wage hike plan, Lexington Republican Robert Benvenuti blasted the measure as a “job killer.” He took particular exception to the equal pay requirements.

Lexington Republican and Minority caucus chair Stan Lee (R-Lexington) accused proponents of resorting to class warfare, and maintains that business owners who take risks to create jobs should be celebrated, not vilified.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s bill to gradually raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by July 1 of 2017 passed out of the House on a largely party line vote of 56 – 43. It now heads to the Senate where the measure has idled in previous sessions.

Follow @ReneeKET on Twitter for updates throughout the day, and for a recap of the full day’s activities, watch Legislative Update, weeknights at 11 on KET. You can also follow the Kentucky General Assembly on KET’s Legislative Coverage app for your smartphone or tablet.