Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slay Seeks to Raise Minimum Wage in St. Louis to $15 an Hour

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slay Seeks to Raise Minimum Wage in St. Louis to $15 an Hour

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * Mayor Francis Slay is pushing to raise the minimum wage in the city, joining cities across the nation in a quest to boost the income of low-wage workers.

Specifics of Slay's proposal are still under consideration, but a draft bill would raise the city's minimum wage to $15 by Jan. 1, 2020. A formal bill is expected to be filed at the city's Board of Aldermen by next week. Alderman Shane Cohn is sponsoring the measure.

"Mayor Slay is committed to raising the issue with the Board of Aldermen this summer," said Mary Ellen Ponder, Slay's chief of staff. "He believes, and he thinks most residents agree, that a higher minimum wage would be a good thing."

But the board may have a deadline looming.

The Missouri Legislature passed a bill in this year's session to bar cities from raising the minimum wage higher than the state level, or taking other actions that would require businesses to provide employee benefits that "exceed the requirements of federal or state laws, rules or regulations."

If Gov. Jay Nixon signs the bill, it would take effect by Aug. 28, city officials said.

Before that date, St. Louis City Counselor Winston Calvert said, the city is "confident that the city has the authority to adopt its own minimum wage and that the state law does not prevent the city from doing so."

Raising minimum wage has been a popular national trend. A 2014 Pew Research poll found 73 percent of the public supported raising the federal wage to at least $10.10 an hour. But it has drawn ire from business groups.

The St. Louis bill is expected to exempt small businesses who employ 15 people or less, or businesses that do less than $500,000 in gross sales.

The proposal would slowly raise the wage, setting a base rate of $10 upon passage. It would then increase the rate annually by $1.25 every year until reaching $15 in 2020. Starting in 2021, the $15 an hour rate would be raised or dropped based on the national rate of inflation.

The proposed hike will be controversial especially among groups that long have complained about the city's 1 percent earnings tax.

"Raising the minimum wage, especially by this large of an amount, is going to lead to more job losses," said Michael Rathbone, a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute.

Rathbone said raising the wage significantly above that of other surrounding communities could cause businesses to leave town. …

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