Mayor wants more discussion on minimum wage proposal

Mayor Sly James at the 2015 State of the City address.

Mayor Sly James at the 2015 State of the City address.

Mayor Sly James wants the entire city council and all key stakeholders in Kansas City to have a chance to discuss the minimum wage issue.

To open up the debate, he’s reassigning a living wage proposal from a council committee to a Committee of the Whole, which is made up of all members of the city council.

Last week, a city council committee considered a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour from the current $7.65 in September and to $15 over the next four years.

Committee members said they support raising the minimum wage in the city, even if it means challenging state law.

But the mayor says some key stakeholders have not yet participated in the discussion.

“I emphasized the importance of a living wage in my annual State of the City speech on March 31,” James said in a press release. “This is an important and complex issue that has major impact on our citizens and the business community, so the entire City Council should be engaged in the important discussion of whether and how to implement a living wage in Kansas City.”

“Clearly economic conditions are changing,” James said. “To enact an ordinance requiring a certain wage without understanding the ramifications of those changes could be counterproductive.”

Councilmember Ed Ford, chair of the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee which had been hearing the proposal, says he agrees with the mayor’s decision.

The mayor has also asked the council’s legal committee to review the ordinance. The city attorney has testified that state laws prevent the city from setting a minimum wage, and Ford says any ordinance the council passed would most likely be challenged in court.

There are now various state bills pending to raise the minimum wage to from $8.50 to $10.25,  but there are also pending bills to forbid cities from making any laws affecting all employment conditions.

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