Pushback from business community on KCMO minimum wage is under way

The South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce dispatched a letter to Kansas City Mayor Sly James earlier this week to complain that its members were concerned about the city’s contemplation of a higher minimum wage.

Vickie Wolgast, president of the South Kansas City Chamber, laid out common business-centric consequences to minimum-wage increases that she’s hearing about from her members:

• Prices on goods and services will go up.
• Businesses will reduce their hours and those of their employees.
• Layoffs 
• Hiring freezes

She buttressed her argument by citing an unnamed hospitality company in south Kansas City that is apparently holding off on $20 million worth of projects while waiting out the minimum-wage debate.

The letter was sent to James right before the City Council took up discussion on a minimum-wage petition that would gradually increase the rate to $15 an hour by 2020, and up to $10 an hour immediately upon passage.

Missouri law generally forbids cities from increasing minimum wages beyond the state’s rate of $7.65 an hour, but a wrinkle in recently passed legislation gives Kansas City until the end of August to consider increasing its minimum wage.

The City Council punted on the minimum-wage issue on Thursday, opting not to place the question on an August 4 ballot and instead saying it would rather study the issue more closely in the coming weeks.

As usual, the council was flooded with competing and conflicting information about the effects of minimum-wage increases.

Pam Whiting, spokeswoman for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, tells The Pitch that her organization’s leadership has not taken a formal position on the minimum-wage issue.

A good primer on the economics of minimum-wage hikes can be found here.

A solid look at the issue locally by The Pitch can be found here.

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