Missouri’s minimum wage would be tied to the federal minimum wage under legislation moving forward in the House, though critics say the majority is ignoring the will of the people.

Sponsor, Rep. Jerry Nolte (R-Gladstone) framed HB 61 during House floor debate as aid to small businesses trying to emerge from the recession. Nolte argued that a minimum wage tied to the cost of living doesn’t just drive wages up, but drives jobs out of Missouri.

“If you’ve got a shop with 100 workers, the latest increase would have meant $6, $7 to the paycheck, but for that company, we’re talking about $31,000 in increase overhead,” Nolte stated. “That’s two workers, that’s two people that they have to possibly let go, because they don’t have the ability to pass that increased cost along.”

Critics, though, pointed out Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved the minimum wage law in 2006, with the cost of living adjustment. The measure would remove the cost-of-living adjustment to the state minimum wage and tie the state wage to federal law.

Rep. Jean Peters-Baker (D-Kansas City) told colleagues this shouldn’t be the only small business bill of the session.

“And I firmly believe we can do better than this,” Peters-Baker stated during floor debate. “We don’t have to pit our lowest paid workers in the state of Missouri against business. We don’t have to do that.”

Both sides used statistics to back their arguments. Opponents used the statistic 76%; the percentage of Missouri voters who approved the state minimum wage law on the ballot in 2006. Supporters used the statistic 41%; the increase in the minimum wage since 2006, from $5.15 an hour to the present $7.05. Opponents contend supporters are ignoring the will of the people. Supporters counter that much has changed since 2006, with an economy saddled now with an unemployment rate of 9.5%, rather than an unemployment rate of 4.5% when the law passed.

The House approved the committee substitute of the bill on a 96-to-61 vote and then approved the bill on a voice vote. Another favorable vote sends it to the Senate.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:15 MP3]