In a June 12 letter to his fellow state legislators, Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-19) raised a red flag about two proposed local ordinances to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Kansas City and St. Louis. 

However, according to a Missouri statute in effect since 1998, no municipality can create a minimum wage that exceeds the state minimum wage.  In fact, a city’s authority on any subject covered by state law must conform to the state law on the same subject.  As Schaefer aptly points out, Missouri’s state minimum wage of $7.65 per hour trumps any authority Kansas City or St. Louis claims to create a minimum wage in excess of this amount.

This past year, the legislature passed House Bill 722, which reinforced the legislature’s intent to prohibit a city from requiring an employer to provide a minimum or living wage exceeding the state minimum wage.  The new legislation doesn’t take effect until August 28, hypothetically giving the two cities a window to pass their ordinances raising the minimum wage prior to the effective date.  Unless one looks back at the 1998 statute.

When Mayor Sylvester James asked Kansas City’s Attorney William Geary to weigh in on the issue in March, he was met with a resounding “no.”  Geary argues, as does Schaefer, that the ordinances would not only violate two state statutes, but also pose a significant threat to the authority of municipalities.  “To act in an area that is already preempted by the State of Missouri,” writes Geary, “may only encourage those in the General Assembly who believe local government are lawless wastelands of social engineering, to continue their assault on local governments.”

The minimum wage hike in these two cities would only worsen the “stagnant economic climate” both Kansas City and St. Louis have experienced lately, rather than present a solution.  Senator Schaefer points out that if the goal of the increased minimum wage is to keep money in people’s pockets to spend in the local economy, then the General Assembly should do away with the 1% earnings tax taken out of paychecks in both cities.  This additional layer of income tax would need to be eliminated anyway if employers were to be able to afford to pay a $15 minimum wage. 

“If we want our cities and our State to thrive and grow,” claims Schaeffer, “we must stop penalizing productivity through duplicate and burdensome taxes and higher costs.” 

You can read Sen. Schaeffer’s letter in its entirety here