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Ballot initiatives to raise Missouri's minimum wage approved for circulation

Workers demonstrate in support of a higher minimum wage.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Missouri's minimum wage could rise to $9 an hour, and rise by an additional dollar an hour per year, under a proposed constitutional amendment.

Three different versions of the proposal have been approved for circulation as petition initiatives, one of which would gradually raise Missouri's minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2023.  The second version would gradually raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, while the third version would raise it to $11 by the year 2019.

Lara Granich is with the Missouri chapter of the group Jobs with Justice.  She says the ballot initiatives are structured in a way that will benefit both employees and business owners.

"While workers get some immediate help, we have a gradual uptick that allows employers to make the adjustments they need to make, allows employers to benefit from increased consumer spending in the community, and make sure that this rising tide can lift all boats," Granich said.

Opponents to raising the minimum wage, which include the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, say it would hurt both job growth and small businesses in the state.

"If you raise the cost of doing business with rising labor costs, the price of goods and services are going to increase as well," said Brian Bunten, General Counsel for the Missouri Chamber. "Businesses (would) have to adjust to an increase in the cost of labor, and you will see that in hours (being) cut (and) certain benefits slashed."

If supporters get enough signatures, the proposal would go before Missouri voters next year.

Meanwhile, a bill passed by lawmakers this year would bar local governments from enacting minimum wages that differ from both the state and federal minimum wages. Gov. Jay Nixon has not taken action on the bill yet.

Missouri's current minimum wage is $7.65 an hour.  It goes up each year based on the rate of inflation.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.