The vote came nearly along party lines, as not a single Democrat approved the measure after nearly two hours of debate. The bill would prohibit Missouri’s minimum wage from exceeding the federal level. Both are currently $7.25, but Missouri uses the cost-of-living adjustment to set its minimum wage. That means when inflation rises, the state’s minimum wage might increase past the federal level.
The bill needs another vote in the House before moving to the Senate. Opponents cited a 2006 ballot measure, in which 76 percent of Missouri voters approved raising the minimum wage and tying it to the inflation rate. The House bill would repeal that vote. Employees will be at a disadvantage if the measure passes, said Rep. Sylvester Taylor, D-St. Louis County.
“If you don’t take care of your workers, what message are you sending to your workforce?” Taylor said.
Republicans, including the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-Clay County, said that lowering the minimum wage would create jobs. By eliminating the inflationary increases, businesses wouldn’t need to pay higher labor costs and could maintain jobs for low-skilled workers, he said.
“Those of you who are voting on this bill, go home this weekend, go to your small businesses, look them in the eye and ask yourself, ‘Can I tell them how I voted on this bill? Can I tell them that I am standing with them to create jobs?’” Nolte said during House debate.
Allowing Missouri’s minimum wage to increase more than the federal wage and more than surrounding states would make doing business in Missouri less attractive for employers, said Republican Floor Leader Timothy Jones, R-St. Louis County.
“None of the bordering states which we compete economically with and competitively with have this provision. It is an anomaly,” he said.
All 57 House Democrats joined with four Republicans to vote against the bill. They said lowering the minimum wage would cost Missouri thousands of jobs and hurt families that live below the poverty level. Rep. Mike Colona, D-St Louis County said Republicans don’t care about the voice of the people.
“House Republicans today told the people of Missouri that their opinion as expressed at the ballot box doesn’t matter.” Colona said.
For the third time this session, Republicans have voted to undo Missouri voters’ decisions.
“Some things are passed by the voters and I think we should respect that. But if there's unintended consequences that we feel like the residents in our district didn't understand or didn't realize were going to occur, we have an obligation as their representative to fix it,” said House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville.
Republicans in the House and Senate are in the process of repealing restrictions on dog breeders, which voters approved last fall. GOP lawmakers have also approved a plan to force Missourians to foot the bill for Ameren Missouri to pursue a permit to build a second nuclear reactor in Callaway County.