JEFFERSON CITY • House lawmakers acted quickly on legislation that would nullify the minimum wage increase in St. Louis and prevent other local entities from passing their own hikes, sending the measure to the Senate on Thursday.
Prompted by a recent Missouri Supreme Court decision that determined St. Louis acted within its rights as a charter city when it raised its minimum wage in 2015, Republican lawmakers promptly filed bills that would require all Missouri cities to keep to the statewide minimum wage of $7.70 an hour.
At issue is a fundamental disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over the impact a higher minimum wage could have on the business community.
GOP lawmakers fear that inconsistent minimum wage ordinances throughout Missouri could hurt competition and inspire business owners to flee the Show-Me state.
Democrats contend that giving low-wage workers more money ensures they’ll spend more money, pouring their additional income right back into Missouri businesses and bolstering the economy. They also argue that in urban areas, minimum wage is the living wage for many.
“At the end of the day, there are people in the city of St. Louis that aren’t making livable wages,” said Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis, during the lengthy floor debate. “In your communities they might be stepping stone jobs … but these jobs are jobs.”
The bill contains an emergency clause, a relatively rare provision allowing the measure to take effect immediately if the governor signs it, ensuring the St. Louis hike wouldn’t be put into place temporarily.
“It’ll cause a lot of chaos if (St. Louis businesses) have to pay a higher wage for a week, two weeks, a month,” said sponsoring Rep. Jason Chipman, R-Steelville.
City lawmakers, including St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, have implored the GOP-led Legislature to raise the wage at the state level, something they’ve hesitated to do out of fear that the increase could force businesses to cut workers and hours.
There was no appetite for a statewide increase on Wednesday, when Democrats offered an amendment that would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2020. It was rejected on a 108-45 vote.
Another amendment would have raised the wage to $15 an hour, but it was withdrawn by its sponsor, House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, after a lengthy debate.
The bill to block local increases won final approval in the House on a vote of 112-46.
Political Fix from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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