Businesses react to new minimum wage law

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MID-MISSOURI - Some small businesses in Columbia are hailing the passage of a new law that will raise Missouri's minimum wage to $12 in 2023.

"It's time for everybody to be making a living wage," Katie Burton, who manages Valhalla's Gate Games in West Columbia, said.

Burton and her husband, Mark, have been running the game store for 18 years and she's happy voters finally upped Missouri's minimum wage of $7.85 an hour on November 6.

"Better paid employees are better workers," Burton said. Only two states with laws like this had minimum wages set below $7 in 2018, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Prop B, the name of the measure proposing to do this, passed by a wide margin. Sixty-two percent of voters voted to raise the minimum wage while only 37 percent voted 'no'.

Effective January 1, 2019, the statewide wage will be $8.60. It will then increase by $.85 every year until reaching $12 in 2023. 

Cities in Missouri have had to fight hard to get these laws approved in the past. St. Louis raised its minimum wage in 2015, but the governor and state legislature blocked it. 

A circuit judge lifted an injunction months later, though, allowing the city to raise its wage to $10. 

"The studies show that with people being paid better, everyone will do better," Burton said. 

But some associations representing larger businesses in Missouri see flaws in the new law. 

"Something has to happen for that business owner to afford the additional wages that they're paying," Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri, said.

McCarty's organization represents the interests of large employers in Missouri like Ameren Missouri and Anheuser-Busch, according to its website

"They'll have to either increase prices, if they're able to do so, or they'll have to cut the hours of minimum wage employees," McCarty said. "Or possibly cut positions."

McCarty also said voters may have forgotten some side effects of voting 'yes' on Prop B.

"Investing in automation, which we are starting to see more and more of in Jefferson City," McCarty said. "We're starting to see more kiosks and things that don't require human intervention."

Burton believes that anyone speaking against raising the minimum wage isn't considering the right people.

"Everybody's like, 'Oh, let the free market just pay people whatever it wants.' Well, they take it for corporate profits and they don't pay their people better," Burton said. 

She thinks the right course of action is to give this new law a shot.

"Let's just do it and let's see," Burton said. 

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