Louisville Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott, D-1, is moving forward with an ordinance that would eventually raise local workers’ hourly wages to $10.10 over the next three years.
Last month, Scott asked for a legal opinion as to whether the council can mandate wage rates within the Metro area. The county attorney’s office has said she can move forward with the bill while they seek more answers from the state Attorney General’s office about enforcing such a plan.
“We believe that it is under the authority to set the minimum wage as the locality,” says Jefferson County attorney spokeswoman Jessie Halladay.
The ordinance would mirror a Democratic-sponsored bill in the state legislature and increase the current $7.25 minimum wage by 95 cents each year until 2017.
It’s unclear if Scott has the support of the council’s Democratic majority or the backing of Mayor Greg Fischer, but she is confident the bill will receive support once it is finished.
“I know that a couple of folks have already expressed some interest in the fact that we are at least pursuing this,” says Scott. “If we are more than words and rhetoric when it comes to being a compassionate city, supporting this minimum wage ordinance from the administration’s side is something that to me shows by action that we care about people.”
Just over 60 percent of Kentuckians support raising the minimum wage, but local economists and Republican council members have warned there are consequences for job-seekers, consumers and small businesses.
The Congressional Budget Office, for instance, found a $10.10 hike would reduce U.S. employment by 500,000 workers. It also shows that such a wage increase benefits some workers but “would be accompanied by reductions in real income for the people who became jobless” and higher prices for consumers.
The aim of the ordinance is to help lift working-class Louisville residents out of poverty, says Scott.
Like many minimum wage supporters, Scott points out the same CBO report shows a $10.10 rate lifts millions of Americans out of poverty. That could be an economic boost for local residents, especially.
A 2012 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic showed the average Louisville worker’s pay is 9 percent below the national average.
“There are actually opportunities that exist for people to grow based on the fact that they are paying people out of poverty level salaries and wages,” she says. “And people have more income to spend.”
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