The time has come for Missouri employers to get off the dime and start sharing their dollars. Minimum-wage workers are being forced to accept a pay scale that doesn’t come close to livable by today’s standards.
On Nov. 6, Missourians should vote yes on state ballot Proposition B, which would gradually raise the minimum wage by annual increments of 85 cents per hour, reaching $12 an hour in 2023. Don’t believe the opponents’ scare tactics about the damage Prop B might do to the job market. Putting extra money in people’s pockets is the fastest way to boost the economy. It also could increase state and local tax revenue by $214 million.
Most of the nation’s economically thriving states already require employers to pay well above the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. The federal minimum might help a burger-flipping high school kid start a savings account, but it isn’t survivable for millions of parents with children to feed and clothe.
St. Louis and Kansas City previously tried to impose their own minimum wage laws, but the GOP-controlled state Legislature intervened with a law forbidding local governments from taking such actions. Politicians who call themselves compassionate conservatives and pro-family deserve to be called out for hypocrisy when they pass wage laws that turn parents into paupers and force children to go hungry.
We urge Missourians to vote for this proposition in such overwhelming numbers — like they did in defeating the August “right to work” proposition — that the Legislature wouldn’t dare try to override it.
Besides, this proposition makes solid economic sense. The Legislature, just like Congress, has experimented with budget-busting tax-cut measures for business under the philosophy that lower taxes would lure new employers and improve the state’s job market. It has done little to nothing, however, for wages. An estimated one-quarter of Missouri’s workforce would see higher wages under Prop B.
In March, a U.S. Census Bureau report debunked some arguments that higher minimum wages depress employment. Some short-term effects on low-skill job loss are offset over the long term. Economists Kevin Rinz and John Voorheis studied data from the 1990s through 2013 to conclude that higher wages reduce employee turnover rates and lead to a more highly skilled and employable workforce.
Opponents argue that states shouldn’t usurp the federal government’s right to set minimum wages — similar to the argument legislators made after St. Louis tried to set its own minimum wage. That ship has sailed. Missouri already sets its minimum wage 60 cents an hour higher than the federal rate. Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia set their minimum wages at $10 an hour or higher.
Missourians should send a strong message to Congress and the statehouse that paying a living wage isn’t a Republican or a Democrat thing. It’s a survival thing.