FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky's state minimum wage could seesaw upward again under a bill that cleared a Kentucky House committee Thursday.
Just last month, Gov. Matt Bevin reversed former Gov. Steve Beshear’s move to raise the state’s minimum wage for government workers and contractors from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
Under House Bill 278, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, Kentucky’s minimum hourly wage would be raised to $10.10 across the next two and half years. It would first increase from $7.25 an hour to $8.20 this August, then $9.15 in July 2017, and finally $10.10 in July 2018.
The increase would not apply to businesses that have average annual gross volume of sales of less than $500,000.
Stumbo said HB 278 could put an extra $2,000 or so a year into the pockets of Kentucky minimum-wage workers. Those workers now earn just more than $15,000 annually for full-time work, he said.
“Can you live on that? I don’t think so,” the Speaker said to House Labor and Industry Committee members. The bill also includes language prohibiting wage discrimination based on race, gender or national origin.
Kentucky’s current minimum wage, which mirrors the federal minimum wage, has not increased since 2009. That increase was approved by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2007. Only Louisville and Lexington have approved a minimum wage above the state rate.
Twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. now have a minimum wage above Kentucky’s minimum wage and the federal minimum wage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. For example, Ohio's minimum wage currently sits at $8.10 an hour, nearly a dollar more than Kentucky's.
Lawmakers voicing concerns with HB 278 include Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Eastwood, who said some surrounding states, including Virginia and Indiana, have the same minimum wage rate as Kentucky. Miller expressed concern that companies may move their business across the border if a Kentucky minimum wage increase were passed.
“The market’s the best way to raise wages,” said Miller.
Representatives from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Retail Federation and the Kentucky office of the National Federation of Independent Business also spoke in opposition to the bill.
Stumbo responded that 13 states have raised their minimum wage since 2014 and the unemployment rate in every one of those states has fallen in the past year and half.
HB 278 now goes to the full House for consideration.