Jefferson City – Three years after Missouri voters approved a plan to gradually raise the minimum wage by 85 cents an hour until it reaches to $12 an hour in 2023, House Budget Committee Chair Cody Smith (R-Carthage) has introduced legislation that would hold the wage at $10.30 cents an hour until 2024 and push off raising the wage to $12 until 2026.
Smith originally sought to tie the state minimum wage to the federal minimum effectively lowering the state minimum wage to $7.25 from $10.30 but backed off of that version of the bill when it became clear he wouldn’t be able to move it on the House floor.
In a March 23 meeting of the House Special Committee on Small Business, Smith said the delay is needed to make the minimum wage increase “more palatable to the business community.”
The incremental increase approved by voters in 2018 was intended to do just that, but Smith said voters probably didn’t understand the full impact of what they were approving.
Smith’s legislation is House Bill 726.
Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D-St. Louis), a minimum wage and social justice activist before his election to the House, called Smith’s bill reckless.
“In the middle of a pandemic, this is reckless legislation that will have a huge cost to it,” Aldridge said. “When we need to be stimulating the post-COVID economy, Republicans are focused on taking money away from people. Not only are we taking money away from people, but we are taking away their vote. In 2018, more than 62 percent of voters wanted the minimum wage to be $12 by 2023.
“I have been on the streets fighting for $15 and a union, and seeing this legislation reminds me of how much more we have to go before workers are treated properly in our state.”
‘IF YOU WANT GOOD EMPLOYEES’
Rep. Steve Butz (D-St. Louis), president of the Crawford-Butz Insurance Agency and a managing partner for Eagle Hurst Ranch in Steelville, said most employers will find they to have to raise their wages regardless of Smith’s legislation because of the tight labor market.
“If you want good employees, you have got to pay,” Butz said. “It is not the increase in the minimum wage (driving up costs), I can almost guarantee you.”