After a call from President Barack Obama to “give America a raise” in last night’s State of the Union address, a new brief from a Kentucky economic think-tank says that a raise in the minimum wage would benefit about 1 in 4 workers and reduce child poverty.
The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says if the minimum wage were $10.10 an hour, it would provide a boost in consumer spending that would spur job creation, and allow low-income families to make ends meet.
KCEP director Jason Bailey says that the General Assembly has a responsibility to pass a bill before them that would raise the Kentucky minimum wage to $10.10.
“You know, there’s good research showing that higher earnings for families has long-term benefits for children,” Bailey said. “So, you know, it’s time to do it. We’ve let the value of the minimum wage, the real value of the minimum wage decline over the last few decades, and that’s a big reason that our poverty levels are what they are.”
Democratic state Sen. Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville said Kentucky doesn’t need to wait for a federal increase.
“An increase in the minimum wage is overdue,” Rhoads said. “Costs have increased. The value of the dollar has gone down. Wages have not kept up with inflation. So I’m very supportive of this effort.”
Republican state Sen. Stan Humphries said the current minimum wage in Kentucky is unsustainable, but in the current economy the increase to $10.10 would drive up prices for consumers.
“You’ll see a lot of things going up. Whether it’s hamburgers at McDonalds or whether’s it’s milk in the grocery store, I think you’ll see some things that are tagged along,” Humphries said. “So prices will dictate that they’ll make up that cost, and that extra money will be passed on to all the consumers.”
A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that 57 percent of Kentuckians support the idea.
The bill before the General Assembly would also require pay equity for women, who earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.