Feb. 7, 2014 — FRANKFORT - The two chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly passed their top legislative priorities Thursday — a bill to increase the minimum wage by House Democrats and one to give lawmakers power to overrule gubernatorial regulations by the Republican Senate.
Both measures are expected to face tough sledding in the other chamber, although House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, hinted that favorable treatment by one chamber of the other’s bill might produce reciprocal treatment.
Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, but designated the chamber’s top priority by Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, passed 24-14 along party lines. House Bill 1, Stumbo’s bill to raise the minimum wage in Kentucky from $7.25 to $10.10 over three years, passed 54-44 with four members of each party breaking rank with their leadership.
Four Republicans — Dwight Butler, C.B. Embry, Jim Stewart and Jill York — voted with the majority Democrats while two Democrats — Bob Damron and Fitz Steele — voted against the increase. Democrats Jim Gooch and Susan Westrom passed.
The House debate lasted for over two and a half hours, with Democrats saying it is necessary for a “living wage” while Republicans said it is a “job killer” and an unfunded mandate on local governments and school districts.
Stumbo said raising the minimum wage would have “an immense effect on the working women in Kentucky trying to raise a family,” noting that 70 percent of Kentuckians making the minimum wage are females, more than half of them over the age of 22.
Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, cited data from the legislature’s top staff economist that the increase would result in the loss of 13,800 jobs and talked about testimony in committee by Tom Greer of the Greer Group which operates Cheddar’s Restaurants who said the increase might bankrupt his business.
Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello, said the increase would put Kentucky small businesses at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding states with lower minimum wages. Republican Whip John Carney, a school teacher, said the increase would cost the three school districts he represents between $28,000 and $100,000 over three years.