A Missouri lawmaker says the average person who works a minimum wage job is living in poverty.

State Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, speaks on the Missouri House floor in September 2017. (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

State Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, plans to pre-file legislation in December to increase Missouri’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“I think it’s imperative that the state of Missouri increases the minimum wage to a livable wage, in particular when we’re cutting services,” Ellington says.

The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations says the state minimum wage for 2017 is $7.70 per hour.

Ellington, the ranking Democrat on the Missouri House Ways and Means Committee, filed the same bill in January.

His legislation was referred to a House committee on the 2017 session’s final day in May, and never received a hearing.

“So by them (Missouri House Republican leaders) pushing the proposal back to the end of session it guaranteed that it was no timeframe to even discuss the merits of increasing the minimum wage,” says Ellington.

Republican critics of raising the minimum wage say it would cost jobs and keep employers from hiring additional workers.

Ellington disagrees with that position, describing it as the “straw man” argument.

“I would tell them to look at states like Washington D.C., where the minimum wage is $12 an hour or Seattle, where the minimum wage is to be up to $12 an hour,” Ellington says. “Or any of the other states that have increased their minimum wage that has not seen an exodus of corporations and companies.”

A 2015 St. Louis city ordinance called for an increase in the minimum wage to $10 an hour in the Gateway City.

The “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” reported this summer that the minimum wage in St. Louis went back to $7.70 an hour on August 28, after Governor Eric Greitens (R) allowed a bill blocking the city’s increase to become law without his signature.

Governor Greitens issued a statement on June 30, when he announced his St. Louis minimum wage action.

It read, in part: “I ran for governor to bring more jobs to Missouri. Our state needs more private sector paychecks and bigger private sector paychecks. Politicians in St. Louis passed a bill that fails on both counts: it will kill jobs, and despite what you hear from liberals, it will take money out of people’s pockets. This isn’t an easy issue. Too many Missourians struggle to get by. They work hard. They want to get ahead. They need leaders who have their back- and I do.”

The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ website also notes that employers engaged in retail or service businesses whose annual gross income is less than $500,000 are not required to pay the state minimum wage rate.

The 2018 Missouri legislative session begins on Wednesday January 3 at noon in Jefferson City.

Click here to listen to the full six-minute interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and State Rep. Brandon Ellington, which was recorded on October 30, 2017: