Archive for Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lawmakers asked to increase state’s minimum wage

February 10, 2009


— Advocates for labor and Kansans with disabilities urged lawmakers Tuesday to increase the state minimum wage, which at $2.65 per hour is the lowest in the nation.

Andy Sanchez, executive secretary and treasurer of the Kansas AFL-CIO, said increasing the state minimum wage would help the economy by putting “money in the hands of workers soon and the economy just as soon.”

He said the current state rate, which according to Department of Labor officials affects 20,000 Kansas workers, is an “embarrassment.”

Senate Bill 160, introduced by Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, would increase the state minimum wage to $7.25 per hour on Sept. 1. The current federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour is scheduled to increase to $7.25 per hour on July 24.

The Senate Commerce Committee held a public hearing on the bill but took no action. Chairman David Wysong, R-Mission Hills, said he would canvass committee members to see what they want to do.

“If it is thought we want to work this bill, it will be next week,” Wysong said.

Shannon Jones, executive director of the Statewide Independent Living Council, said more Kansans with disabilities would enter the work force and become “taxpayers rather than tax takers” if the state increased the wage rate.

Heidi Zeller of Lawrence, who is coordinator of the “Raise the Wage” project sponsored by the Kansas Action Network, said the federal poverty level for a single person is $10,830 per year, which is nearly double what the state minimum wage pays.

“We believe that a job should keep you out of poverty, not in poverty,” Zeller said.

But business groups opposed the bill. Those groups included the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, Americans for Prosperity and Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

They argued that raising the minimum wage hurts low-skilled, entry-level employees and consumers because the additional costs will cause businesses to cut back on hiring or increase their prices for goods and services.

They also said the minimum wage should be abolished altogether.

“If one consenting adult agrees to work for another for $5 an hour, should the state step in and invalidate the agreement?” asked Derrick Sontag, state director of AFP-Kansas.

“The free market should determine wages,” said Kent Eckles of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

And Ron Hein, a lobbyist for the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said the vast majority of food and beverage employees already pay in excess of the federal minimum wage. Hein said his association has yet to find a business paying the state minimum wage.

But Zeller said an increased minimum wage helps businesses because workers have more money to spend and employers save money through reduced employee turnover.

She said the biggest group of people earning the state minimum wage are in the category of care workers for children, the elderly and infirm, in addition to workers on small farms whose employers gross under $500,000 annually and do not produce for interstate commerce.

State Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, said that although he supports measures to raise the state minimum wage, he wasn’t confident about this bill’s chances. He said his fellow Republicans, who control the Legislature, haven’t been interested in increasing the minimum wage.


Chris Ogle 9 years ago

I don't want a raise. I want a job.

The_Bends 9 years ago

A minimum wage above the equilibrium wage will create a contraction in labor demand. Translation: while some workers benefit from a nominal wage increase, other workers are put out of a job.This is yet another example of political demagoguery that will either be completely superfluous (if the new minimum wage remains below the equilibrium wage) or will put workers out of work (if the new minimum wage is above the equilibrium wage).Just what Kansans need--more disingenuous legislation like the superfluous Anti-Guantanamo prisoner legislation. At least the legislature realizes that further cuts to education spending will make future attempts at terrible legislation attractive to future, under-educated Kansas voters.

Chris Ogle 9 years ago

Larry- I agree. Entry level jobs are just that. Just because I may be hired at entry level, doesn't mean I am going to stay at entry level. What better chance to prove your worth than working a real job.

rusty2 9 years ago

meanwhile, billions for wall street & bank bailouts - hey that's fair!

shorttrees 9 years ago

Like this will really matter? Federal law supercedes State on minimum wage, so all this would do is quit making Kansas look like Scrooge. It will affect very few paychecks (which they won't tell you) and especially won't affect the Restaurant Assn. Just a bunch more spin and "busy-work" from our legislators. Yes, we should do this, but mostly for appearances' sake.

any 9 years ago

Actually we don't have the lowest minimum wage. Some states don't have a minimum wage. guess I question why we'd worry about raising the minimum wage when we have to comply with the federal minimum wage. Seems redundant, and I think our Legislature can use its time better on other things.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

“The free market should determine wages,” said Kent Eckles of the Kansas Chamber.--------------------------If someone is working for $2.65, or even $5 an hour, it's desperation at work, not the free market.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

If you really want the "free market" to work, set a minimum wage at a level at which someone can realistically support themselves (but not necessarily a family.) Otherwise, goods and services which depend on exploitation wages are unfairly subsidized by the exploited workers, and the government and charitable programs, parents or even crime they rely on just to survive. End these subsidies, and consumers can make their purchasing decisions based on the true costs of the goods and services.

Omegatron 9 years ago

“If one consenting adult agrees to work for another for $5 an hour, should the state step in and invalidate the agreement?” asked Derrick Sontag, state director of AFP-Kansas.Please. My first job, the employer was trying every trick in the book not to pay anybody anything, and hired illegals whenever possible just to save a buck. They even hired a retarded guy at low wage because they knew he wouldn't complain to anybody about his pay.To hell with government not stepping in and allowing employers to exploit whoever they want.

sarahsmilehawk 9 years ago

I don't think it's a lot to ask to make the state minimum wage equal to the federal minimum. The article says this affects 20,000 people. They deserve a paltry $7.25 an hour. I don't have any sympathy for a business that can't survive without paying an exploitative wage.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

"bozo, there's no such thing as an “exploitation wage.”"That's ridiculous. We live in an economy and a society which by design have an unemployment rate that's consistently around 10%, although the rules about who is counted as "unemployed" mean that usually only about half that number is acknowledged. The effect, quite intended, is a level of desperation for a job, any job. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, and there is no shortage of unscrupulous employers willing to oblige.BTW, that drag on wages trickles up the economic chain-- that is until you get the the upper 5% income bracket, who are the main beneficiaries of this culture of exploitation.

Alexander Neighbors 9 years ago

well well well an employee is paid 7.50 an hour they take home .85% of that amount the other .15 % goes to Taxes so if the local city Govt wants more money they just increase the minimum wage causing the amount they receive in taxes to go up...... They are not doing it to help those poor poor people making less than 8.00 an hour they are doing it to make more money off of them........... Crooked

Godot 9 years ago

Just an innocent, leading question. How many jobs has the US economy lost since Congress increased the minimum wage?

Thinking_Out_Loud 9 years ago

The_Bends makes a valid point, and one worth discovering.The underlying assumption, however, is that the equilibrium wage is below $7.25/hour. I doubt that this is the case....

Bob_Keeshan 9 years ago

Don't you love how the Kansas Chamber of Commerce is actually for abolishing a minimum wage?The minimum wage isn't really about protecting workers, it is about protecting employers. It is about protecting businesses. It is about protecting the competitive market.The Kansas Chamber of Commerce is, in reality, the most anti-business organization in the state. Coming in a close second is the NFIB chapter.Think about it, "independent business" lobbying group. You wipe out the minimum wage, it isn't the independent businesses who will be able to attract customers and therefore attract employees. Only the corporations will survive.

notajayhawk 9 years ago

The minimum wage has never been enough to put people above the poverty level, let alone support themselves. Guess what - it was never intended to. If just half the people in Kansas worked, that 20,000 represents just 15 people out of every thousand. And I seriously doubt that anyone - ANYONE - is working a $2.65/hour job as their sole means of support. The people making that wage are usually tipped employees (if you can't make $5/hr in tips to make up the difference, you stink as a waiter, get a new job). Or piecework or flat rate or some other arrangement that works out to be much higher than the minimum. 20,000 he__ - I want you to find just one person, just one, who works a 40 hour week for $2.65/hour.If the boohoozos of Larryville would get off their 'get the jack-booted heel of the rich off the throat of the proletariat' rant for a moment or two, they just might realize that the minimum wage not only was never intended to be a living wage, there's no reason for it to be one. Has it occurred to boohoozo that many minimum wage workers are in part-time after school jobs for kids living at home, that have no need or desire to support themselves?Maybe boohoozo's just bitter because he can't qualify for that mortgage pedaling along on his paper route.******shorttrees (Anonymous) says… "Like this will really matter? Federal law supercedes State on minimum wage, so all this would do is quit making Kansas look like Scrooge."The federal minimum wage only applies to businesses that are involved in interstate commerce. That's all the fed can regulate. That actually applies to most businesses, but not all. And, btw, the federal minimum has exceptions - like tipped employees only have to make half the minimum.

texburgh 9 years ago

Americans for Poverty. They also argued in their state budget proposal that it would help Kansans if we raised state university tuition to the same level as private university tuition. Keep more in poverty; that's more for the Koch Brothers and AFP.

Bad_Brad 9 years ago

Am I missing something here?The state minimum wage of $2.65 is meaningless. Any employer in the state is bound by the federal minimum wage of $6.55.The federal minimum wage is set to increase to $7.25 on 7/24 of this year. Francisco's proposal is to increase the KS minimum wage to $7.25 on 9/1. What exactly does that accomplish?

KatWrangler 9 years ago

What a disgrace. If you own a business and can't afford to pay a liveable wage to your employee, then don't have a business.To Senator Reitz and your Repub friends in Topeka, I don't know how you sleep at night. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.