One of the six ballot measures that Missouri will decide in November’s election would raise the state’s minimum wage.
Backers of the proposal collected more 120,000 signatures to ensure it would be placed before voters. The effort was led by Missouri Business for Fair Minimum Wage and Raise Up Missouri.
The ballot measure known as Proposition B would increase the minimum wage, starting next year, to $8.60 from the current $7.85, and gradually increase it by 85 cents a year until it reaches $12 an hour by 2023.
The state’s current minimum wage of $7.85 translates to $314 a week and slightly more than $16,000 a year for a full-time worker.
Missouri Business for Fair Minimum Wage is part of a national group that advocates for hikes in minimum pay across the country. Two of its member business owners recently spoke with Missourinet.
Stacy Jurado-Miller heads the Vecino Group in Springfield, which is a real estate development firm that specializes in low-income housing. She says taxpayers end up footing the bill for workers with low paying jobs.
“We deal in affordable housing, so every day we see what happens when hard-working Missourians can’t pay for their basic needs,” said Jurado-Miller. “The result is as a state we’re paying one way or another when people can’t afford their rent.”
Howard Hanna owns two restaurants in Kansas City, the Rieger and Ca Va. He claims all his kitchen and waitstaff make more than $12 per hour already and says raising the minimum wage will level the playing field for businesses.
“We’re having to compete against people who are paying the least they possibly can,” said Hanna. “That makes it difficult for us to compete in the marketplace when our prices look high compared to others. And it’s because we’re actually trying to do the right thing by our staff.”
Both St. Louis and Kansas City either enacted or had plans to implement minimum wage hikes before being overridden by the state legislature.
In August of 2015, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance to raise minimum pay to $11.00 by this year. In August of 2017, Kansas City voters approved a measure by a 75%-to-25% margin to increase the city’s minimum wage over five years to $15.00 by 2022.
Those efforts were crushed by the state legislature in 2017 when it passed a bill barring municipalities from establishing minimum pay requirements that exceed the statewide minimum wage. Then Governor Eric Greitens let the bill become law without his signature.
St. Louis actually hiked its local wage for four months in 2017. A court battle between the state legislature and the city had started after the city ordinance was approved in 2015. The city prevailed when the state Supreme Court reversed a circuit court ruling that the St. Louis ordinance was out of step with state law. The city’s minimum wage was briefly raised to $10 in May of 2017 before the new state law prohibiting the increase became effective on August 28th of last year.
Backers of this year’s ballot measure rely on several studies to support their claim that boosting the minimum wage helps the economy.
An analysis conducted by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute concluded that Proposition B would result in a new investment of more than $1 billion in consumer buying power in Missouri, affecting over 670,000 workers.
A 2011 study, “The Spending and Debt Responses to Minimum Wage Increases” by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago stated that “every dollar increase in the minimum wage results in $2,800 in new consumer spending per household over the following year.”
Business groups that generally fight against minimum wage increases have been relatively silent since Proposition B was certified for the November ballot.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce opposed the wage hikes in Kansas City and St. Louis that the state legislature ultimately blocked. The Chamber’s Matt Panik said his organization hasn’t taken a position on the ballot measure but would be evaluating it with Chamber board members.
“Generally, we try to wait until it’s certified and we know that it’s going to be on the ballot before we really weigh in on something,” said Panik. “That’s all I’d say at this point.”
Even if Proposition B is approved by voters, the Republican-dominated, and business-friendly state legislature could still have the final say on what the final outcome is. Missouri is one of 11 states with no restrictions on lawmakers’ ability to repeal citizen initiatives.