Kansas Defeats Minimum Wage Hike

By John Celock

The Republican-controlled Kansas House of Representatives Thursday afternoon used a technicality to defeat a proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage by almost $3 an hour.

The proposal from state Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour was defeated by the House Rules Committee on a technicality. The Rules Committee determined that Winn’s amendment, which was being opposed by Republican legislators, could not be voted upon since the proposal was not germane to the economic development bill being considered at the time.

Winn said she was proposing the amendment in order to help the state’s economy. The amendment came during House discussion of legislation that would expand the state’s PEAK economic development program.

“This is a business friendly and working family friendly amendment,” Winn said during the debate.

Republicans argued against Winn’s business friendly argument, citing a report from the Congressional Budget Office that projected a 500,000-job loss from a minimum wage hike to $10.10 an hour. President Barack Obama endorsed the $10.10 an hour minimum wage during his State of the Union message last month. Obama has already signed an executive order raising the wage for federal contractors.

“This is not a message we want to send across Kansas,” state House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee Chairman Marvin Kleeb (R-Overland Park) said during the debate. “We shouldn’t have Kansas be singled out as being a high wage state and hurt our chances for economic development.”

State Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R-Shawnee) told The Celock Report that if Winn’s proposal had come to a full vote he would have voted against it, citing the CBO report. He said he has concerns that a government mandated wage hike, instead of one driven by the market would end up hurting workers.

“Look at companies that already utilize automated service,” Hildabrand said. “If a grocery store is forced to pay workers more when that wage increase is forced by the government instead of market driven, are they more or less likely to replace checkers with self-serve scanners?”

Hildabrand said he believes that a minimum wage hike by state government will also set back workers, noting that the hike will raise the price of goods and services at the end of the day.

When questioned at a Politico event in Washington last week about a minimum wage hike, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) argued for more vocational education programs to provide training for workers to enter careers plumbing, welding and other professions. At the time Brownback said this would lead to higher wage jobs than a minimum wage hike. Brownback did not directly say he would oppose a minimum wage hike.

Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady (R-Palco), a Rules Committee member, said the panel was unanimous behind the recommendation of Rules Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe) in deciding Winn’s amendment was not germane. Couture-Lovelady told The Celock Report that if Winn’s amendment had only applied to the PEAK program then it would have been germane and received a vote.

No challenge was made to the Rules Committee decision.

At least one Democrat believes the full state House needs to vote on the minimum wage hike.

“I think the people of Kansas deserve an up or down vote on this issue,” state Rep. Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) told The Celock Report.