What Will The Next Kentucky Governor Do With the Minimum Wage Hike For State Employees?

Jun 10, 2015

Credit composite: Conway (Gage Skidmore / Flickr (Creative Commons License); Bevin: Alix Mattingly

  Gov. Steve Beshear this week issued an executive order to increase the minimum wage for about 800 state workers—but his term ends this year.

Whether to keep the wage hike beyond 2015 will be decided by his successor.

Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee for governor, said if elected, he’d keep the executive order in place.

“Jack supports Governor Beshear’s decision to raise the minimum wage for state government employees and applauds the governor for taking this action,” Conway’s spokesman Daniel Kemp said in an email.

Conway also supports raising the minimum wage for all Kentuckians.

The campaign of Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, the Republican nominee for governor, did not respond to requests for an interview on Tuesday.

But Bevin has repeatedly said he opposes raising the minimum wage and supports having wages respond to market influences.

“With respect to minimum wage, [I am] absolutely opposed to the idea of government raising minimum wage,” Bevin said at a Woodford County Republican gubernatorial debate in April.

“The bottom line is we will have people walking into retail stores and eating establishments and punching in their own order rather than having that order taking by somebody if we artificially raise wages.”

(We’ll update this story when Bevin’s campaign responds.)

On Tuesday, Beshear announced he would raise the minimum wage of executive branch workers from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour. The executive order takes effect July 1.

Beshear said the increase will cost the state about $1.6 million per year.

According to the Bluegrass Poll conducted in March, raising the minimum wage was the top issue for voters in the governor’s race.

During this year’s legislative session, the Democratic-led House passed a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 by July of 2017.

The bill never received a hearing in the Republican-led Senate.

In January, the departing governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, raised the minimum wage for state contractors.

That executive order was repealed by his successor, Bruce Rauner.