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Fischer Says He'll Support Louisville Minimum Wage Increase to $9

Minimum wage increase supporters at City Hall on Thursday night.
Minimum wage increase supporters at City Hall on Thursday night.

The minimum wage in Louisville is on its way to $9 an hour, pending official approval by Mayor Greg Fischer.

In a party-line vote, the Metro Councilvoted 16-9 Thursday night to approve an amended version of a proposal to raise the minimum wage.

Though Fischer had earlier this week said he would oppose any wage boost beyond $8.75 an hour, following the council vote he sent a statement vowing to support the amended wage hike.

“I will support $9 over three years because it is a balanced compromise solution that gives hardworking families a raise while minimizing the risks of job losses in our city,” he said in the statement.

Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi attended the Metro Council meeting on Thursday to show support for the initial proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

She said she was a bit disappointed with the amendment.

“I would have loved to seen $10.10,” she said.  “But I understand the politics of it all and trying to get the mayor to sign it.  I really feel like the mayor forced the council’s hand.”

The council was able to come to a vote on the amended proposal after nearly two hours of debate and a barrage of confusion concerning council rules.

Councilman Ken Kramer, a Republican from District 11, said following the vote he was counting on the mayor to uphold his “promise to this community” that he would veto any wage hike exceeding $8.75 an hour.

It does not appear that that will be the case, and Kramer said language within the amended ordinance will allow the minimum wage to “well exceed $9 an hour.”

The ordinance calls for every employer in Metro Louisville to raise the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $7.75 an hour by July 1, 2015, then to $8.25 an hour by July 1, 2016 and to $9 an hour by July 1, 2017.

Each year following, the minimum wage will be increased by “an amount corresponding to the previous calendar year’s increase,” according to the ordinance.  The raises that will come in these years will be based on the Consumer Price Index for the south urban region and the wages must determined by the Metro Revenue Commission and will not exceed 3 percent.

As for tipped employees, their employers will still be required to “ensure that the employee receives tips at at least the minimum wage,” said Sarah Martinof the Jefferson County Attorney office.

Councilman James Peden, a Republican from District 23, said raising the minimum wage will hurt Louisville’s ability in attracting jobs.

“Louisville is not in a position, economically, educationally and so on to set itself out there as an outlier in this country,” he said.  “This is just another one of those things that is going to set us apart when it’s time to get those non-service economy jobs, those higher-end jobs.”

Meanwhile, Councilman Brent Ackerson, a Democrat from District 26, seemed a bit nonchalant about the issue.  Laughing, he said the people who supported a wage hike to $10.10 an hour will “get shorted a $1.10.”

“You take what you can get,” he said.

Council Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt said the mayor has to make an official move on the ordinance before the next full council meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 5.

Meanwhile, Greater Louisville Inc.—Louisville's chamber of commerce—urged Fischer to veto the ordinance. In a statement, GLI President Kent Oyler said:
“The ordinance passed in tonight's Council meeting far exceeds the Mayor's $8.75 line in the sand, especially when tied to the Consumer Price Index.  In addition, the process to rush this vote clearly broke Council rules.” “We urge Mayor Fischer to keep his commitment and veto this ordinance.  We as a community must to be focused on pro-growth policies, not policies that limit business attraction and create uncertainty for businesses that have chosen Louisville as home.  GLI still contends that a local minimum wage increase is outside the legal authority of Metro government and is not an effective tool to alleviate poverty.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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