Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Advocates seek increase in state minimum wage

February 19, 2008


Advocates for the working poor today called the state minimum wage of $2.65 per hour, outdated, unjust and an embarrassment.

But business lobbyists and a Kansas University professor said attempts to increase the state minimum wage would worsen conditions for workers on the lowest economic rung.

State Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, and co-chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said she needed more information on the issue.

"It's important for us to understand the average wage is in the neighborhood of $7 an hour. It begs the question, is the minimum wage even relevant," Brownlee said.

Before the Commerce Committee is Senate Bill 466. It would increase the state minimum wage to track the federal minimum wage when it increases from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour later this year, and to $7.25 per hour in 2009.

Kansas' state minimum wage of $2.65 per hour is the lowest in the nation and hasn't been increased since 1988.

The state minimum wage affects about 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.

State Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, said the time has come for Kansas to increase its minimum wage.

"It's fair, it's just and something we ought to be doing," Reitz said.

Bishop Scott Jones of the United Methodist Church said, "The fact that we are the only state with a minimum wage lower than the federal standard is an embarrasment."

But Ron Hein, a lobbyist with the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said increases in the minimum wage cause employers to not hire as many unskilled workers. He suggested getting rid of the state minimum wage altogether.

Arthur Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at KU's School of Business, said in submitted testimony that "there is general agreement that these (minimum wage) laws do more harm than good" by reducing employment opportunities for young people and those with fewer skills.

But Heidi Zeller, of Lawrence, speaking on behalf of Kansas Action Network, said paying a decent wage helps workers, families and the economy.

She said after an increase in the federal minimum wage in 1996 "the economy experienced its strongest growth in over three decades."


Robert bickers 10 years, 1 month ago

Being new to Kansas, I had no idea state minimum wages ever differed from the national ones.

I always wondered if the hourly minimum wage goes from $5 to $7, what happens to all the people who were earning $8?

situveux1 10 years, 1 month ago

I think this goes under the category of who cares. If you're not going to increase it above the federal minimum wage, then your wasting your time and my tax dollars.

kansanjayhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

This is a situation in which legislators should simply make our Kansas statute read the same as the federal one that way the liberals won't have another non-issue to make larger than life.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 1 month ago

Just because we've grown up learning about government-manipulate wage rates (the "minimum wage"), doesn't mean it makes any economic sense. It's time to completely eliminate the minimum wage and bring prosperity to the greatest possible number of workers.

texburgh 10 years, 1 month ago

Kansas has the lowest state minimum wage at $2.65. The next lowest is $5.15 (Wyoming and Georgia). Five states have no minimum wage: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina - all noted for the benefit of the "free market system" - I'm sure you've all noticed the prosperity of residents in those states! The Kansas minimum wage is even lower than Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thirty-two states exceed the federal minimum, 10 match the federal minimum. The bill in the Senate would have brought Kansas to the federal minimum.

Oklahoma and Nebraska match the federal level; Missouri and Colorado are higher.

If everyone can have a higher minimum wage than Kansas and survive, why is the restaurant and beverage industry so worried?

By the way, Mr. Hein has also appeared - at least in the past - as the lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Smoking and poor; quite a combo.

Frank Smith 10 years, 1 month ago

There are 29,000 Kansans making less that the current federal minimum wage. The fed wage does not apply to certain classes of workers most particularly those who are not employed by a business engaging in interstate commerce including farm workers, tipped workers who do not work for a national chain, etc.

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