FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - A measure to increase Kentucky's minimum wage cleared a House committee Thursday after Speaker Greg Stumbo suggested that a restaurant owner was lying when he said the bill would bankrupt his company.
The House Labor Committee voted 15-1 to approve the legislation, with two lawmakers voting "pass." It would push the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.
Kentucky's minimum wage is tied to the $7.25 federal rate and President Barack Obama has called for federal legislation to increase the wage. Stumbo said he had no confidence that the federal government would act.
"Washington's broken. We all know that," he said.
The Kentucky Retail Federation opposes Stumbo's bill, with a spokesman saying that the extra staffing costs would harm small businesses.
Lee Greer, who owns 40 Cheddar's restaurants, including 11 in Kentucky, said the legislation would have a much deeper effect on his business. He testified against the minimum wage bill and another increasing the lowest wage for tipped employees.
"(The two bills) if made law, will bankrupt our company," Greer said. "We will be out of business."
He said that 2,000 Kentucky workers would lose their jobs, but Stumbo questioned whether Greer was telling the truth about the impact on his company.
"When business owners come here and tell you that, it's a good thing they're not under oath in a court of law, because they'd probably face some stiff penalties for perjury," he said.
The measure exempts companies that earn less than $190,000 a year, meaning they wouldn't have to comply with the higher minimum wage standard.
The bill will likely face an easier time in the House than in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Stumbo said he was not concerned that Obama, who has lost Kentucky twice in his presidential campaigns, would be a drag on his legislation.
"He's not the sponsor of this bill," Stumbo said. "(Republicans) shouldn't hold that against me. I don't agree with him (Obama) 90 percent of the time."
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