Last week, members of a city council committee demurred on the issue of raising the minimum wage in Lexington, saying it was better to wait until a lawsuit challenging Louisville's recently passed minimum wage ordinance has been finally decided.
Monday, a circuit judge threw out the challenge.
Tuesday the Kentucky Court of Appeals turned down a petition for an emergency injunction to stop the wage increase from going into effect Wednesday, July 1.
The appeals court said it agreed with the lower court that under Kentucky law local governments have the authority to increase the minimum wage.
The attorney for the businesses challenging Louisville's ordinance said they may appeal directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
While the challenge has not been finally decided by the Kentucky Supreme Court, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council should quit dawdling on this important issue and take it up when it returns from summer break on Aug. 11.
University of Kentucky economist Ken Troske told the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee that his calculations show the proposed increase, stepped up over three years from the current minimum of $7.25 an hour to the proposed $10.10 an hour, would mean $92 million a year for low-wage earners in the county.
Troske's calculations include wages lost from jobs be believes could be eliminated because of increased labor costs.
Troske argued that a wage increase is not the most efficient way to reduce poverty, saying that improved education and job training would be more efficient approaches.
There are at least two problems with Troske's argument.
The first is, as council member Jake Gibbs pointed out, Troske's suggestions may indeed be more efficient, "if we could effectively get them done" but local government has little authority or budget to address those issues.
The other is that people working for low wages need more money now to pay their bills for housing, food, utilities, transportation and other basics.
Committee members also expressed concern about interfering with the free market between workers and employers.
It's an odd argument, given that in this country government has interfered with the labor market by setting minimum wage levels since 1938.
In addition, government at all levels subsidizes employers who pay at or just above the minimum wage. Their prices are low and sometimes their profits are high because taxpayers provide the extras their workers need to survive, through food programs, housing subsidies, Medicaid and other benefits.
Thousands of hardworking, low-paid people in Louisville got a raise this week.
Do Lexington workers deserve any less?