Missouri House overturns voters’ decision on minimum wage

House Bill 61 would prevent the minimum wage from moving with inflation.

The Missouri House of Representatives voted 92-60 Monday to cap Missouri's minimum wage at the federal minimum wage level.

The bill, House Bill 61, essentially reverses a voter-sponsored initiative to have the minimum wage move with inflation.

The House's decision comes at a time when legislators are also working to overturn Proposition B, another voter-supported initiative imposing stricter regulation of dog breeders.

In 2006, a majority of Missouri voters voted for the state's minimum wage to move with inflation even if it meant exceeding the federal minimum wage.

The bill's sponsor Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-Gladstone, said restricting the minimum wage from exceeding the federal minimum wage will keep Missouri businesses competitive with businesses in neighboring states.

"There are many small businesses hanging on by their fingernails," Nolte said. "I think we need to make sure that we are protecting those small businesses particularly since that is where the majority of job creation occurs is in those businesses."

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, said she voted against the bill to cap minimum wage at the federal level for this reason.

"Well over 70 percent of Missouri voters recognized the need to raise the minimum wage," Still said. "Our people in this state need to be making more money, not less money."

Still said those who voted in favor of the bill are standing on the side of large businesses as opposed to their constituents.

Still spoke about the issue on the House floor and said 1.6 million Missourians voted to increase minimum wage in 2006. Still also said it is estimated that more than one million Republican leaning voters voted to raise the minimum wage.

"They have chosen to stand with some of the big businesses," Still said. "They have chosen to stand with the chain restaurants, rather than support local businesses and citizens of the state."

Missouri Jobs with Justice Director Lara Granich said her organization opposes any attempts to disregard the Missouri voters’ decision in 2006.

"The legislature has tried to undermine the Missouri minimum wage pretty much annually since it was passed,” Granich said.

To rally support for their stance on the subject, Granich said Missouri Jobs with Justice had workers show opposition to the bill in Jefferson City on Feb. 23 and in Kansas City and St. Louis on Feb. 26. They have also given members of their organization tip cards to give to waiters or waitresses when they go out to talk about the issue.

"This bill would undermine the buying power of the minimum wage over time," Granich said.

Granich said the minimum wage in the past has been based on inflation, which usually increases.

"If we lose that and we freeze the minimum wage, it means the lowest paid workers in the state lose buying power every year."

The bill will now make its way to the State Senate.

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