Minimum wage laws in hands of city governments after after Gov. Nixon’s recent veto

Minimum wage increases at a local level could be possible throughout Missouri.

Gov. Jay Nixon recently vetoed House Bill No. 722, which would prevent further state control over local government policymaking. The veto paved the way for cities such as Kansas City to raise the minimum wage above the state or federal level, an option that did not exist previously in Missouri.

Along with minimum wage, the bill laid out specific details regarding the use of paper versus plastic bags throughout cities in Missouri. As Nixon supports local control and decision-making, he did not support the passage of the bill.

In the veto letter, Nixon stated the bill was a “clear example of unwarranted government intrusion.” He said “…this bill would inject the heavy hand of state government into issues typically addressed through the local democratic process.”

Second Ward councilman Michael Trapp said he supported Nixon’s decision.

“I am very pleased about the Governor's actions in restoring local control to our city officials,” Trapp said in a news release. “City government is closest to the people we all serve and should have wide discretion in crafting policies to improve the lives of our residents.”

The bill was created in part to reiterate and clarify an older law set in 1998 saying that cities could not set a minimum wage above the state or federal level. Since then, there have been legal challenges trying to change that. The bill did not receive enough votes in the Missouri House of Representatives to override the veto.

With Missouri minimum wage currently set at $7.65 an hour, some people believe it needs to be raised, whether that be at a federal, state or local level. One organization with this goal in mind is Missouri Jobs with Justice. Their director, Lara Granich, proposed a series of petitions to raise the minimum wage.

“If you work hard and you work full-time you should be able to make it paycheck to paycheck, and Missouri workers are nowhere near that right now,” said Molly Fleming, a member of Jobs with Justice.

She said the current minimum wage is nowhere near the cost of living.

“Not only is that not acceptable, it’s just not necessary,” Fleming said.

MU sophomore Patrick Kelly, who makes minimum wage, said he works to make some extra cash.

“I think there’s ways you can (live off a low-income), whether that’s in that job itself like going to a manager (position) or going to find a different job that pays $10 an hour or $20 an hour,” Kelly said. “I don’t think you’re really stuck.”

Fleming also said she believes an increase in the minimum wage would help the economy overall.

Low-income workers would have more money in their pockets to turn around and spend on the local economy. Businesses, she said, would ultimately experience a greater amount of sales as a result of an increased minimum wage.

On the other hand, businesses and the overall economy could be hurt as a result of wage increases. According to a recent study done by the American Action Forum and Manhattan Institute, approximately 3.8 million low-wage jobs would be lost nationally if the minimum wage were raised to $12 per hour.

MU economics professor Eric Parsons said increasing the minimum wage could have negative effects.

“Economists in general … are not in favor of minimum wage as an anti-poverty measure, partially because it could lead to unemployment,” he said. “Those effects seem small so it doesn’t seem like that’s too big of an issue but also it’s not necessarily well targeted.”

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