My Support for the Minimum Wage Increase

On November 19, 2015, Urban County Council voted to approve an ordinance raising the minimum wage in Fayette County to $10.10 an hour over the next three years, beginning July 1, 2016.  The vote was 9 to 6 in favor.  The Herald-Leader article about the vote can be found here.

I voted with the majority.  I believe it was the right thing to do. But I also believe that reasonable people can differ on this issue, and that each of the Councilmembers who voted against the proposal had reasonable concerns about the potential impact of the ordinance.  These concerns included the following:

  • The move to $10.10 an hour is too large an increase too quickly
  • The county does not have the legal right to raise the minimum wage above the State or Federal level
  • We should wait until the Kentucky Supreme Court rules on the lawsuit regarding the validity of Louisville’s similar legislation
  • Small businesses and low wage workers would be harmed by the increase
  • Other approaches to providing low wage workers with support would yield more positive results with fewer negative consequences

Though I do not agree with some of the assumptions behind these concerns, I  understand them and took them into account in deciding how to vote.

I supported the proposal because for me there are two deciding factors in this complex issue.  First, the need to provide relief now to the working poor in our community outweighs the concerns about possible negative impact.  The working poor have seen the purchasing power of the minimum wage diminish steadily over the past few decades.  Despite working full time at one and sometimes two minimum wage jobs, many must rely on a variety of government subsidies and support to pay for the rent, the food, and other necessities for themselves and their families. Second, a solid preponderance of evidence indicates that raising the minimum wage is good both for low-wage workers and for the overall economy.

In the discussions on raising the minimum wage, Councilmembers made the point many times that doing so by itself does not solve all the problems of poverty in our community. I agree. Our community needs to continue to look for additional ways to increase education and employment opportunities and to provide other means of support for the working poor. For example, Councilmember Hensley moved to place on the Council docket an ordinance to exempt minimum wage workers from the city’s Occupational License Tax. Council approved my amended version of his motion, to place discussion of the issue in the Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee. At an earlier meeting Council approved Councilmember Stinnett’s motion to place into the same committee discussion of additional efforts within LFUCG for workforce development and training. Both proposals are worthy of consideration, and I look forward to continued Council work on these important issues.

I offer thanks to Councilmember Jennifer Mossotti for bringing the minimum wage issue before Council, to all my colleagues on Council for their thoughtful deliberation on this issue in numerous meetings over the last nine months, and to all the citizens who took the time to share their views with me and my colleagues. My thanks also to Jason Bailey and Anna Baumann of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy for their research and analysis of this complex and difficult issue.

You can view more of my thinking on this issue in a series of blogs posted earlier on this site.

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