The Missouri House has given first-round approval to legislation that would prohibit the state's minimum wage from exceeding the federal rate.
In 2006, Missouri voters approved a ballot initiative that set the state's minimum wage at $6.50 an hour, and allowed future minimums to rise based on the rate of inflation. It now matches the federal level of $7.25 an hour.
The bill's sponsor, State Representative Jerry Nolte (R, Gladstone), wants to insure that the state minimum never exceeds the federal.
"These increases (are) going to have to be passed along," Nolte said from the House floor. "Companies, particularly small businesses, don't have the extra margin, they don't have the wiggle room, to be able to absorb increases of this sort."
But opponents, including State Representative Genise Montecillo (D, St. Louis), told fellow House members that a higher minimum wage is good for Missouri's economy.
"Minimum wage increases go directly to workers who spend them immediately, because they have to, on basic necessities like food, gas, rent and clothing," Montecillo said. "Minimum wage increases are one of the only forms of fiscal stimulus that does not worsen the state budget deficit."
The bill passed 96-61 on a mostly party line vote. It needs one more vote by the House before moving to the Missouri Senate.