Last month I talked with a restaurant owner who told me that a sizeable increase in Saint Louis’ minimum wage would be “devastating.” Last June, this owner and many others were granted a reprieve when the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee canceled all future meetings to discuss the bill. Yet, like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, a city-wide minimum wage increase is the idea that will not die.
It seems that there are those in the city who want to get some type of minimum wage increase passed before the Legislature has a chance to override Governor Nixon’s veto of HB 722, which would forbid municipalities from raising their minimum wages after August 28. What’s interesting to note is that even if the Board of Aldermen passes a bill before the August 28 deadline or the Legislature fails to override the Governor’s veto, Saint Louis probably lacks the legal authority to raise its minimum wage above the state minimum wage. Regardless, a $13 per hour minimum wage would be disastrous for the city and its workers.
The Congressional Budget Office studied the effects of increasing the federal minimum wage to “just” $10.10 an hour and found that it would cost 500,000 jobs. Now this 500,000 figure is a national number, but the effect on jobs would be especially pronounced if the wage went up at the local level, because companies forced to pay the higher wage can just hop across the city border to escape the mandate. Even the liberal Vox.com thinks that $13 per hour (never mind $15) would be too high a minimum wage for Saint Louis.
What about the other cities that have raised their minimum wages? If the recent evidence from Seattle is any indicator, things aren’t looking good.There are also some signs out of Los Angeles that might give policymakers in Saint Louis pause.
Momentum is building in some parts of Saint Louis City government to increase the city’s minimum wage, as evidenced by the convening of a special session to debate the issue. However, that doesn’t mean that such a move would be good policy. A large increase (and going from $7.65 to $13 or $15 per hour would certainly qualify as large), will end up costing jobs and failing to help the working poor.