Topeka The Kansas House on Wednesday rejected an attempt to increase the state minimum wage, which at $2.65 per hour is the lowest in the nation.
There were 56 votes to increase the state minimum wage to the same level as the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. But there was were 63 votes, all Republicans, against it.
Supporters of the increase said it was a moral issue to help low-income workers.
"This is a crime against humanity," said Rep. Geraldine Flaharty, D-Wichita. "Kansans deserve better."
The state minimum wage affects 19,000 workers, mostly in service or agricultural jobs, who aren't covered by the federal minimum wage law, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
But opponents of the increase in the state minimum wage said it would be too costly to small businesses and cause employers to lay off workers.
"This is one of the greatest superstitions of all, that if you raise the minimum wage you are doing anybody any favors," said state Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe.
Rep. Benjamin Hodge, R-Overland Park, argued against the increase saying the state should avoid "European-style socialist bills."
An earlier motion to do away with a state minimum wage failed 56-62.
Twenty-eight states have state minimum wage rates higher than the federal minimum.
Sixteen states have set their state rate at the federal wage and five have no minimum wage; those include are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Of states with a state minimum, only Kansas' is lower than the federal wage. Kansas hasn't increased its state minimum wage since 1988.
Congress also is considering increasing the federal minimum to $7.25 an hour, which would be the first increase in 10 years.
For House Democrats, defeat of the increase cut down one of their goals for the session.