Columbia Daily Tribune
Missouri business groups want to once again tie the state’s minimum wage to the federal minimum, currently $7.25 an hour. In 2006, Missouri voters approved a $6.50 minimum wage, adjusted for inflation but also required to be no less than the federal minimum.
A proposal sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-Gladstone, would set Missouri’s minimum wage to be no more than the federal minimum. At a hearing yesterday evening in the House International Trade and Job Creation Committee, Nolte said potential future increases could hurt the ability of businesses to hire additional help.
“We need to be about job creation,” Nolte said. “That needs to be our fixed star that we are looking for.”
Nolte, who is chairman of the committee, said he expects to vote on the bill next week.
During testimony, the committee heard from business groups and business owners supporting repeal of the inflation adjustment. It also heard from supporters of the current law and people working for minimum wage.
Elizabeth Dunn, a coffee barista from St. Louis, said she has a college degree but still lives at home because she can’t find a job that pays more than the minimum wage. “Voting ‘no’ on the bill that will undermine the minimum wage law will keep people in your community from living a substandard existence,” Dunn said.
But Rep. John McCaherty, R-High Ridge, noted state government must cut about $500 million from spending and that Social Security recipients have not received a cost-of-living increase for two years. Projections show the state wage could go up 10 cents an hour, or about $4 a week. “Four bucks is not going to change whether you put food on the table,” he said.
“It is easy to minimize this group of people,” Dunn said. “We are doing the same thing. We are not outside of that.”
“I don’t mean to minimize the minimum wage,” he said.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the state minimum wage law in 2006. It has been adjusted for inflation twice, in 2008 and 2009, but has not been increased since. The federal rate was increased to $7.25 in mid-2009.
Richard Walls, owner of Boone Tavern in Columbia and vice president of the Missouri Restaurant Association, said he has been forced to cut his work force in recent years, in part because of the higher minimum wage.
“It makes it difficult to give somebody a shot,” he said. “I would like to be hiring, and I am somewhat guardedly optimistic. But there is only so much money to go around. And it prevents other staff from getting the raises they deserve.”
But Lew Prince, managing partner of Vintage Vynil in St. Louis, said increasing the minimum wage has little effect on his profits.
“If businesses are closing over the minimum wage, what we are talking about is businesses that were already in trouble,” Prince said.