The Richmond Register

Local News

January 31, 2014

Stumbo stumps for minimum wage increase

FRANKFORT — Greg Stumbo says it’s time to raise Kentucky’s minimum wage. Jeff Greer says if it happens, he’ll go out of business.

Stumbo, Democratic Speaker of the House, wants to raise Kentucky’s minimum wage in equal increments of 95 cents over three years to $10.10. Presently, the minimum wage is $7.25 and tied to the federal minimum wage, which Democrats in Washington, led by President Barack Obama, also want to raise to $10.10 an hour.

“Poll after poll shows us that support is overwhelming among Democrats, Republicans and independents all across the country,” Stumbo told the House Labor and Industry Committee on Thursday. He said 21 other states presently have minimum wages higher than the federal level.

“We can’t wait for the federal government to act,” Stumbo said. “Kentucky workers deserve help now.” A minimum wage earner working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year makes $15,080 annually, which would rise to $16,209 under the first increase of 95 cents. At $10.10 an hour, a worker would make $21,008 a year.

The issue generally divides Democrats and Republicans and that’s likely to be the case in the 2014 General Assembly. Republicans on the committee expressed the greatest doubts about Stumbo’s measure and most give the measure little chance of passing the Republican-controlled state Senate.

The issue has also been raised by presumed Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, Alison Lundergan Grimes, who criticizes incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell for past votes against raising the federal minimum wage. Stumbo is a political ally of Grimes and her father, Jerry Lundergan.

Stumbo told reporters after the meeting the Senate should pass the bill and might if “they just look at the issue and don’t look at who is sponsoring it.”

The Speaker said the measure would benefit around 391,000 Kentuckians who presently make less than $10.10 an hour. It would not affect businesses which have gross sales of $190,000 or less, some agriculture workers or tipped employees (although another bill in the House would raise the wage for tipped employees).

Those are people who “are not able to come to Frankfort today to lobby you like some who stand in opposition.”

Neither Stumbo nor the committee had to wait long to hear from opponents.

Todd Griffin, president of the Kentucky Retail Federation, said passage of the measure would “only increase the headwinds for Kentucky small businesses” which he said operate on profit margins as small as 1 percent.

Bob Patterson of Patterson Company, CPAs, which does most of its accounting work for companies in the hospitality and food industries, said a review of employee wages at their clients’ companies show only “a very small percentage of employees” make less than $9.93 an hour but Stumbo’s proposed increase “would easily close many cash-strapped restaurants.”

Lee Greer of the Greer Company, which owns restaurants, hotels and development properties in multiple states and had $5.1 million in profits before taxes last year, said his company would be bankrupted by the increase in Kentucky. He said the bill would cost his company $2.6 million.

“We’ll be out of business and 6,100 Americans will lose their jobs,” Greer said.

Afterward, Stumbo returned to the table and told the committee critics of the measure had made his case for him and said if the bill passes he’ll be happy to offer Greer $2.5 million for his company.

He said the bill would increase the bottom wage by 95 cents a year for three years and companies can easily plan for and adjust to “what they know about” while it is “unanticipated” costs and expenses which threaten most businesses.

Republican committee members Lynn Bechler and Tim Couch expressed concerns about an increase’s impact on unemployment and jobs. Couch operates a grocery store with 19 employees, he said. But if the wage goes to $10.10 an hour, he’ll have to reduce that number to 15.

In the end the measure passed the committee with only the no vote by Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger. Couch had left the room by the time the vote was taken and Bechler and Regina Bunche, R-Williamsburg, passed.

The committee also passed a companion measure sponsored by Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, which would require tipped employees to be paid 70 percent of the minimum wage.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 7-27 HeartChase 1.jpg A race to the finish line

    Sheltered by overcast sky and supported by a cool breeze, teams competed Saturday morning in the second annual HeartChase at Richmond Centre.

    July 26, 2014 6 Photos

  • 7-27 Hops 1.jpg Hops & Vine Festival raises money for humane society

    Downtown Richmond’s Hops and Vine Festival started more than two years ago with a question.

    July 26, 2014 3 Photos

  • Bill Clinton will stump for Grimes in eastern Kentucky

    Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is again calling in the “Big Dog” in her quest to unseat five-term Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

    Former President Bill Clinton will join Grimes on Aug. 6 for a campaign rally in eastern Kentucky, according to a campaign official who would provide no further details.

    July 26, 2014

  • 7-26 Stockyards 2.jpg Cattle farmers enjoying ‛perfect storm’

    Demand is up, and cattle are selling for record prices.

    At the same time, corn prices are down and fuel prices have stabilized.

    That adds up to a “perfect storm” for Kentucky cattle farmers, said Gary Kelly of Paint Lick as he ate lunch Friday with his brother Jimmy at the restaurant across from the Blue Grass Stockyards.

    July 26, 2014 5 Photos

  • 7-26 Fire Practice Structure 1.jpg Fire training tower going up

    A new training tower for the Richmond Fire Department is rising on Four Mile Road.

    Construction began Thursday on the four-story, steel-framed structure.

    July 26, 2014 4 Photos

  • Pavement work to restrict I-75 in Rockcastle County

    Beginning Sunday until about the end of November, Interstate 75 in Rockcastle County will be reduced to one lane in each direction between mile points 58 and 66 for pavement work.

    July 26, 2014

  • Jailed woman charged with heroin trafficking

    A Richmond woman already jailed on another charge was served with a drug trafficking warrant Thursday.

    July 26, 2014

  • County’s jobless rate improves

    Madison County’s unemployment rate for June, 6.5 percent, was a full percentage point lower than a year earlier and 0.2 points lower than in May.

    July 24, 2014

  • 7-25 Camp Invention 1.jpg Young inventors turn trash to treasure

    The first day of Camp Invention began with a room full of objects ready to be recycled, Sarah Shaffer, director of the camp said Thursday.

    July 24, 2014 6 Photos

  • 7-25 William Gilbert.jpg Four arrested on meth charges at Berea motel

    Berea Police arrested four people Wednesday at the Knights Inn on Chestnut Street, including a man they said tried to conceal a meth lab on his person.

    July 24, 2014 5 Photos