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Louisville Council Democrats Differ on Minimum Wage Ordinance

A number of Metro Council Democrats expressed concern Thursday with a possible minimum wage ordinance in Louisville, especially its effect on larger businesses and younger workers.The county attorney’s office told city lawmakers this week that they have the authority to establish a wage rateseparate from the rest of the state.A draft ordinance sponsored by Democrats Attica Scott, Barbara Shanklin, and David James would increase worker’s pay rates over a three-year period.In May, all 17 members of the majority caucus signed a Courier-Journal op-ed supporting the idea, but some Democrats stressed a need for possible exceptions.“It concerns me that we are going to cut kids out of a job,” Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, D-14, told WFPL in a telephone interview. “I want to make sure we’re doing it right. It’s hard for kids to get jobs right now, summer jobs are few and far between.”Fowler said business owners in her district worry a hike to the minimum wage could detour them from hiring teens and high school students“They didn’t feel like they wanted to pay somebody $10 an hour if they weren’t workers. So it just gave me pause,” she said. “It doesn’t change my thoughts about the minimum wage it’s just trying to see the business point of view as well.”Lawmakers behind the ordinance have exceptions for companies with fewer than 10 workers and for tipped workers.Scott, D-1, said the county attorney has already advised her office any attempts to cut younger workers out of the ordinance would be considered discriminatory. She added that young workers are also important income-earners in many households.“Although some council members may serve districts where teenagers may be working just for the sake of working, many in west and southwest Louisville are helping to take care of their families,” said Scott.Other Democrats brought up how a wage proposal could hurt seasonal workers at businesses like Kentucky Kingdom, the city’s local amusement park.“It’s easy to give a raise with someone else’s money,” Council President Jim King, D-10, reportedly said at Thursday’s caucus meeting.Many of those concerns mirror what GOP members have said for months about a locally mandated wage increase.Republicans have questioned the wisdom in passing any measure that would make the city’s wage rate higher than surrounding area.Under the current proposal, Louisville workers would be given a staggered wage hike of $8.10 by July of next year, $9.15 the year after that, and $10.10 by 2017.Councilman David Yates, D-25, who didn’t attend the caucus meeting, said he believes fellow Democrats have important questions, but they are committed to giving local workers a pay raise.“We’re in a balancing act, but I believe raising the minimum wage will be a positive,” he said. “Ten-ten an hour is hardly a livable wage. Right now there’s numerous subsidies for folks not making a livable wage that’s being paid by taxpayers.”Supporters of the minimum wage ordinance expect to file the measure at the end of next week.