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Minimum Wage Increase Moves To The Ky. House

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the General Assembly can’t afford to wait for the federal government to act on the minimum wage.

The state House Committee on Labor and Industry has passed a measure that would follow President Obama’s recommendation and raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo gave top priority to the minimum wage increase bill by designating it as House Bill 1 this session. He testified before the House committee Thursday that the bill, which would incrementally raise the wage by 95 cents a year starting this July, is the right thing to do for earners at the bottom.

"Washington is broken. We all know that and I just don't believe it's going to happen. I don't believe that anybody can reasonably argue that it's going to happen at the federal level. So I think we need to give Kentucky workers this small raise to reward them for the hard work they do every day," Stumbo told reporters.

Kentucky last raised the minimum wage in 2009, but supporters argue cost of living increases have erased those gains.

But business owners are firing back, saying the move would push some to close their doors.

"It is real. It is a fact. The numbers don't work,"says Lee Greer, the president of Greer Companies, which owns the Cheddar’s restaurants in Kentucky. He says the bill would effectively bankrupt his business. "The incremental cost to our company for tipped employees in Kentucky would be $2.9 million dollars in additional costs. The incremental expense for hourly, non-tipped employees would be in the neighborhood of $2.3 million."

The bill will likely be taken up by the House early next week. Stumbo says he expects the House will pass the measure, though the real test will come in the Senate.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.