Kansas City passes minimum wage increase

Kansas City Council members have voted to allow Kansas City to have the highest minimum wage in Missouri. But don’t spend that extra money yet, as the City lacks authority to enact such an ordinance.

Late last week, the Kansas City Council voted 12-1 to increase the wage to $13 a hour by 2020. The vote came after more than three months of debate and places Kansas City among a group of cities instituting big pay raises for the working poor.

Under the ordinance, the first bump in the wage would come on August 24th when the wage increases from the state-set minimum of $7.65 to $8.50 per hour.

Both sides of the issue say they are dissatisfied. Representatives of business say the wage hike is illegal under state law.

“The Kansas City Council does not have the power to enact an ordinance that prevents employers from paying to their employees an amount that is set by state statute,” said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri. “Kansas City leaders should realize, while they have broader powers than other cities under their charter, they lack authority to pass an ordinance that would necessarily override state statute.”

Meanwhile, supporters of a higher wage hike say they will circulate petitions to force a ballot issue that would raise the wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

Councilman Ed Ford, the lone dissenting vote on the measure warned against giving low-wage workers “false hope”, because the city is sure to be sued by business interests, and the new city law will never take effect.

Kansas City State Representative Kevin Corlew echoes that sentiment and says the minimum wage discussion needs to take place at the state level.

“This echoes what I have been saying: state law is clear that cities on their own cannot raise state minimum wage,” said Rep. Corlew. “To do so not only inhibits business competition but also creates false expectations among citizens, as the ordinance will likely be struck down in court. This is a discussion that should be had in the Missouri General Assembly, where the authority on minimum wage is vested.”

Kansas City is the latest city to enact a minimum wage increase. Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco are gradually raising their minimum age to $15 an hour. St. Louis is considering a move, but its ordinance hasn’t received a final council vote.