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Kentucky Supreme Court To Hear Louisville Minimum Wage Case Friday

The Kentucky Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a lawsuit over whether Louisville can increase the minimum wage employers pay their workers.
A Jefferson Circuit Court judge already ruled the city could raise the minimum wage, but a coalition of business organizations appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.

Tod Griffin, president of the Kentucky Retail Federation, said allowing local governments to raise the minimum wage would create a “patchwork” of different wage laws across the state.

“You may have to raise prices or reduce benefits or that type of thing,” Griffin said. “It leads to a competitiveness situation with your neighbors across the county or in a different city.”

In late 2014, the Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance gradually raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour by July 2017. The minimum wage was raised to $7.75 an hour in 2015 and will be raised to $8.25 an hour July 1 of this year.

Louisville officials argue the city is allowed to raise the minimum wage because of the “home rule” law, which allows local governments to regulate their own economies.

“Cities have the right and the authority to deal with issues like this on a local level and to establish what the minimum wage will be in their jurisdiction,” said Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell in a phone interview. “We believe that our jurisdiction here — as well as others in Kentucky — have the right to increase that through the action of their councils or other legislative bodies.”

The court’s ruling will have implications on the legality of Lexington’s minimum wage hike, which will go up to $10.10 an hour by July 2018 and tie the rate to the consumer price index. Before then, Lexington’s minimum wage will increase to $8.20 an hour on July 1 and then to $9.15 an hour on July 1, 2017.

Kentucky’s statewide minimum wage is tied to the federal rate, which is currently $7.25 an hour.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at