Council has done its homework, time is now for Lexington to raise minimum wage

By Kenny Colston

Lexington is well-known for a lot of things, namely:

▪  Being the “Horse Capital of the World;”

▪  Being a college town;

▪  As a top community for retirement (according to CNN and Forbes);

 And as a top community for jobs (Forbes, again). It has the opportunity to add one more bullet to that list - being a city that supports workers and their families - when the Urban County Council votes Thursday night on an ordinance that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by July 1, 2018.

If passed – and hopefully it will be – more than 31,000 people who currently make less than $10.10 an hour will benefit. More than 57 percent of those who benefit are women and more than 75 percent are working adults between the ages of 20 and 49.

The council has debated the minimum wage increase since March, looking at numerous studies, hearing directly from low-wage workers, as well as business owners and advocacy groups. Arguments for and against an increase have been dissected and discussed for nearly nine months. As a result of that process, the current ordinance is a strong compromise the majority of the council supports.

The last thing Lexington needs is another study on the minimum wage proposal, yet that’s exactly what opponents of the legislation have suggested. Lexington shouldn’t take a page from Frankfort and Washington D.C. and put off important progress for the sake of another study which will show what we already know: the current minimum wage has eroded badly and needs an update.

Instead, the city should be a leader. Becoming the first city in Kentucky to have a $10.10 minimum wage shows Lexington values its people, no matter their line of work. It shows Lexington is willing to pay a fair wage for a fair day’s work.

It also shows Lexington understands when workers have more money in their pockets to spend on the basics, the city’s economy as a whole benefits. When more of the jobs are economy-boosting rather than economy-busting, everyone is better off.

There’s been a lot of distraction from the goal of raising Lexington’s minimum wage. Thankfully, the time for more distractions is over. A “yes” vote shows that Lexington wants to be known as a city that prospers by taking care of its own.

Kenny Colston is the communications director for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

Email him at kcolston@kypolicy.org.