Rep. Watkins explains ‘no’ vote on $15 minimum wage

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OSAGE CITY, Kan. (KSNT) – The country’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but some people in Congress are trying to get that number higher.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives approved to incrementally raise the federal minimum wage to $15 in a matter of eight years.

“This is a classic case of legislation that feels good but doesn’t actually do good,” said Congressman Steve Watkins.

“Several cities have tried increasing the minimum wage, Seattle, San Francisco, it doesn’t work, what we see is employment numbers going down.”

Watkins was one of three Kansas Representatives that voted against the bill. Only Sharice Davids voted for it.

Watkins said too high of an increase could have Kansans losing jobs.

“I think government determined price points are not the way to go, I think the price is a contractual agreement between the employer and the employee and the government ought to stay out of it,” said Watkins.

But not everyone agrees. John Nave is the executive vice president of the Kansas chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. His group represents over 85,000 Kansas union members.

“If they pay their people well, that means that those working families on payday go out and spend and re-enter the economy. Bring the economy, supporting those companies, and shops, and restaurants, and stores,” Nave said.

Watkins says the bill is a bad one size fits all policy.

“$15 in New York City is not the same as it is in Pittsburg, Kansas,” Watkins said.

But Nave says the current rate isn’t a living wage.

“It’s not keeping up with inflation, that’s the facts, single mothers, single fathers, and working families together, you could have a two-person household making $7.25 an hour and they still can’t keep up paying their bills, taking care of their kids, and living that life they would like to live,” Nave said.

It’s now up to the Senate to vote on the bill, but that isn’t expected to happen.

Neighboring states Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado all have a minimum wage of $8.60 or more, while Oklahoma and Kansas sit at $7.25.

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