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KC minimum wage effort
struck down
Vote on matter to be pulled from ballot

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

Workers inside the city limits of Kansas City earning the state-mandated minimum wage of $7.65 per hour will not receive the boost in pay that the Kansas City Council championed for over the past six months.

A previously scheduled election on the issue will now be pulled from the November ballot.

Ultimately, state legislators overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of House bill that sets restrictions of a city’s authority to execute a minimum wage that exceeds the state-set minimum wage.

The legislators' support of House Bill 722 will prevent political subdivisions from having the legal authority to set a minimum wage rate that exceeds the state-mandated minimum wage.

The increased minimum wage ordinance passed by the Kansas City Council in July never went into effect. A committee of petitioners, requesting a special election, blocked the minimum wage ordinance from being implemented.

The November ballot referendum would have asked voters to decide if the minimum wage of workers in Kansas City should be increased to $15 per hour by 2020.

Since the minimum wage ordinance never went into effect, the potential loophole city officials could have argued in a court of law has been closed.

Michael Grimaldi, a spokesperson for Mayor Sly James, said “HB 722 specified that city ordinances in effect before Aug. 28 could remain in force. The Kansas City ordinance was enacted but it did not take effect before Aug. 28, because a referendum was called.”

City attorney Bill Geary said he will present an ordinance to the Kansas City Council to repeal the $13 per hour minimum wage ordinance.

The ballot referendum will also be pulled. City officials say the ballot referendum that was submitted to the Board of Election Commissioners of Kansas City and the Platte County Board of Elections will be removed from the ballot.

"We are working with the election authorities to remove the $15 per hour initiative measure from the November ballot. That should happen officially in the next few days,” said Geary.

“There is no point in conducting an election at an estimated cost of $500,000,” said Grimaldi.

During a luncheon at the KCI Hilton on Sept. 9, Mayor Sly James said he knew the higher minimum wage initiative might be shot down but city officials had to try.

“We have to say at some point in time,” said James. “This is in the best interests of our city and we are going to try to make it better. Sometimes we forget that there are a whole group of people trying to make do with a family of one or two or three on $7.65 an hour, working a couple of jobs,” said James. “They are out of sight, out of mind. They are the ones handing us bags of stuff through the windows. Their stories are compelling, their situations are concerning, and their futures are not clear,” he added.

Thus far, James said the increased minimum wage initiative has had a positive impact across the country.

“We have had some employers who have voluntarily done something different, because they got it. They hadn't thought of it either, but they got it. Employers across the country are starting to look at workers differently now. They are giving more maternity leave, letting people take unlimited vacations, they are doing all sorts of things that help workers stay where they are and be happy in their jobs.”

Several options remain relevant in the cause to share good fortune with those currently earning the state-mandated minimum wage.

The city attorney said, "If minimum-wage workers in Kansas City are to receive an increase in their $7.65 per hour wages they must look to their employers, the Missouri General Assembly, or a statewide initiative petition.”

Recently, the Secretary of State's Office approved for circulation three separate and distinct statewide petitions to increase Missouri's minimum wage.

One option seeks to increase the state's minimum wage to $9 per hour with a $1 per hour increase each year until 2023.

According to the petition, the $15 per hour by 2023 minimum wage proposal would increase state and local government expenses up to $397 million annually if funding is appropriated. On the other hand, state and local government tax revenue could be increased annually by an estimated $489 million.

A second option asks petitioners if they support a statewide minimum wage increase of $9 per hour with a $1 per hour increase each year until 2020. The second version would increase the state's minimum wage to $12 by 2020.

The third option seeks to increase the state's minimum wage to $9 per hour with a $1 per hour increase each year until 2019, when it would reach $11 per hour.