Minimum Wage Increase for Lexington: Ongoing Deliberations

Minimum Wage Presentation

Jason Bailey, Director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, presents research on minimum wage

Background

Many state and city governments are raising the minimum wage above the federal minimum, which currently stands at $7.25 per hour.  Advocates for the change often cite the declining purchasing power of the federal minimum wage as well as growing income inequality, whuch is at its highest level since the Great Depression.

The state of Washington has the highest state minimum wage, $9.47 per hour.  Seattle, Washington will have the nation’s highest municipal minimum wage at $15 per hour.  Kentucky’s minimum wage remains in-line with the federal minimum—$7.25 per hour.

On December 18th, 2014, Louisville Metro Government voted to increase the city’s minimum wage to $9 over 3 years.  Louisville’s wage will increase to $7.75 in July of 2015, $8.25 by July 2016, and $9 by July 2017.  While the ordinance has received a legal challenge, Louisville’s County Attorney shared his office’s opinion that the city could raise its minimum wage without being in violation of state law.

Lexington

At the February 10th, 2015 work session, Councilmember Jennifer Mossotti proposed that the Lexington Fayette Urban County Council consider the issue of minimum wage.  After some discussion of the topic, Councilmember Mossotti moved to place minimum wage into the Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee.  You can review the full meeting online here.   Streaming Video of 2/10/15 Work Session

On March 17th, 2015, the Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee convened and discussed minimum wage.  You can view the full meeting online by clicking here:  Streaming Video of 3/17/15 Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee Meeting

Councilmember Mossotti provided an introduction to the issue and then welcomed Jason Bailey, Director of the Berea-based Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP) to present their research on the issue, which is included in the Committee’s packet:  3/17/15 Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee Packet

Because a large number of people wished to speak to the issue and the committee had a limited time to meet, 19 individuals who had signed up to speak were unable to be heard. I voted with the majority to keep the issue in committee and place it on the agenda for the next meeting for further input and discussion.

Next Steps

Minimum wage will continue to be discussed at the June 23rd, 2015 Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee meeting starting at 1:00 pm..  Councilmember Stinnett, chair of the committee, said he will also consider calling a special meeting earlier in June to allow for more extensive public input.

This Lexington Herald-Leader editorial supporting the proposed change provides some of the key data on this topic:  “Schedule Hearing on Minimum Wage

I agree with the main contentions in the editorial and am presently in support of this effort.

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