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Schaefer takes lead in fight against urban leaders in minimum wage fight

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Both Kansas City and St. Louis are looking to preempt a state law that sits on the governor’s desk for signature, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has written senate colleagues that the cities cannot raise minimum wage above the state level, even without the new law.

Senator Kurt Schaefer

HB 722 has been pointed to as a bill that will prevent municipalities from raising minimum wage beyond the state level – as well as prevent municipalities from enacting a plastic bag ban, prompting St. Louis and Kansas City to quickly consider raising the minimum wage within the city. Schaefer says laws already on the books prevent minimum wage preemption, pointing to Section 67.1571, Section 71.010. and Section 290.502 RSMo.

“While the legislature passed House Bill 722 this year to reinforce the legislative intent on minimum wage, the prohibition on St. Louis and Kansas City from passing higher than state minimum wage ordinances is not contingent on HB 722 becoming effective on August 28,” Schaefer wrote. “As stated above, cities are already prohibited under existing law from requiring employers to pay higher than state-set minimum wages.”

Schaefer also points to a letter from Kansas City’s city attorney William D. Geary, who submitted a memo to the mayor and city council concluding the city did not have authority to exceed minimum wage.

The senator and candidate for attorney general continued to try his case that increased minimum wages in the cities would greatly harm the state overall, calling for the General Assembly to take immediate action to eliminate the 1% earnings tax imposed in the cities if the cities raise the minimum wage, saying it would be “the only way employers will have the money to pay those wages.”

“If we want our cities and our State to thrive and grow, we must stop penalizing productivity through duplicate and burdensome taxes and higher costs,” Schaefer concluded. “Together, through common-sense reforms, we can prevent misguided policies in St. Louis and Kansas City from forcing businesses and taxpayers out of the state.”

However, activists are supporting municipalities who are trying to move closer to higher wages.

“This looks like a diversionary tactic by the Senator from Boone County to distract from the real policy question: How do we move towards a livable wage for families struggling to make ends meet in St. Louis, Kansas City and the rest of the state? Right now, workers earning minimum wage take home just $300 a week, no where close to what’s required to support a family,” said Lara Granich, Executive Director of Missouri Jobs with Justice.
“Attorneys have reviewed the legality of Missouri cities setting higher minimum wages, and shown than Schaefer’s analysis is incorrect. If taking steps for livable wages was already illegal, why would Jeff City politicians be working so hard to preempt local leaders on this?”
Schaefer will be discussing minimum wage preemption Sunday on This Week in Missouri Politics.

Read the full letter here: Local Ordinances to Raise Minimum Wage June 2015