Jan. 8, 2014 — We’ve never questioned the political instincts of Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
He has a real knack for knowing when to grab the media spotlight with a grandstand move that plays well in his district and throughout rural Kentucky.
Converting the University of Pikeville into a state university and four-laning the rest of the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway are two examples of proposals with regional appeal but little, if any, statewide support in the General Assembly.
The UPike idea fizzled two years ago because the state can barely afford the eight public universities it already supports.
The Mountain Parkway widening may be a good idea at some point but there is no money for it and it isn’t part of the six-year road plan.
It appears that Speaker Stumbo’s next great idea is for Kentucky to raise its state minimum wage to $10.10 hourly over a three-year period.
That is exactly the same plan concocted by Democrats in Washington but which is languishing in the Congress.
Stumbo told reporters last week in Frankfort that House Bill 1 in the upcoming 2014 regular legislative session would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and also deal with pay equity issues.
The first few numbered bills in each legislative chamber usually represent the priorities of the party in control.
It surely must be coincidental that a higher minimum wage is one of the issues raised by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in her race for the U. S. Senate seat of Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Pollsters report the minimum wage hike is getting strong responses from voters.
Asked if his proposal was intended to benefit Grimes in her race, Stumbo reportedly laughed and said he wouldn’t speculate on that point.
The speaker also stated that he had not discussed the minimum wage idea with Senate President Robert Stivers, a good Republican friend and supporter of Sen. McConnell.
As of Jan. 1, state minimum wages became higher than the federal level in a total of 21 states.
The only state close to Kentucky to go up is Ohio but that state’s $7.95 hourly rate applies only to larger employers.
We agree that the cost of living has increased faster than wages and that much of our economic recovery has been in lower-paying jobs.
But how can most small businesses pay a $2.85 hourly increase and still remain viable?
More importantly for many East Kentuckians, if you don’t have a job, does the minimum wage really matter?