Many states, but not Kansas, will see minimum wage hikes in 2015

Cost-of-living adjustments built into Missouri’s current minimum wage law will push the state’s wage floor up to $7.65 an hour on Jan. 1.

The state’s minimum has been $7.50 an hour in 2014.

Missouri is among 29 states that have, or will have as of Jan. 1, state minimums that are higher than the current federal rate of $7.25 an hour. In states that have their own minimum wage statutes, the higher of the state or federal rates must by paid by employers who are covered by the laws.

Workers in Kansas fall under the federal rate, which has not been raised since 2009.

A federal increase requires congressional action to change – a prospect sought by the White House and most Democrats but generally opposed by the Republican leadership.

The static federal rate has been the target of multiple wage protests through the United States this year, particularly directed at the fast food industry.

Along with Missouri, eight other states will have automatic increases in their state minimums as of Jan. 1 because of inflation indexes in their laws.

In addition, legislatures in 10 states and the District of Columbia enacted minimum wage increases during their 2014 legislative sessions. Four other states approved increases through ballot measures in their general elections this year.

Some of the higher state minimums effective Jan. 1, 2015 include:

▪ $8.25 in Delaware, Illinois, and New Jersey;

▪ $8.75 in Alaska;

▪ $9 in California and Massachusetts;

▪ $9.10 in Oregon;

▪ $9.15 in Connecticut and Vermont;

▪ $9.32 in Washington;

▪ and $10.50 in the District of Columbia.

Some have already implemented the increases, and others go into effect Jan. 1.

For Missouri workers who are classified as “tipped employees” – earning an unspecific amount of their wages through gratuities – state law requires employers to pay a minimum cash wage that is half of the legal minimum, allowing a “tip credit” to make up the other half of the minimum wage.

In 2014, that meant a $3.75-an-hour cash requirement from employers to augment $3.75 an hour in tips to reach the $7.50 minimum.

In Kansas, employers of covered tipped workers are required to make a minimum cash payment of $2.13 an hour, the federal tipped minimum wage, with the balance of the $7.25-an-hour federal compensation to be made up by $5.12 an hour in tips.

Federal law says that if an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.

According to the Congressional Research Office, the peak value of the federal minimum wage in real terms was in 1968.

To equal the purchasing power of the 1968 minimum wage, the 2014 minimum wage should have been $10.69 instead of $7.25. As it was, the minimum wage’s buying power didn’t keep up with increases in consumer prices.