FRANKFORT (KT) – Hoping that the fifth time is the charm, a Kentucky lawmaker announced Thursday he will propose legislation for the 2022 General Assembly that would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by July 2026.

“I believe it’s time to pass that bill,“ said Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, the main sponsor.  “Wherever you travel, the signs you see most prominently are jobs wanted, help needed, now hiring.  We need people to go to work, here in Kentucky and here in America.”

He noted Kentucky’s workforce participation rate has dropped five points the past three years, to 56%.  “That tells you that only slightly more than half of all eligible working Kentuckians are now going to work.  We can’t have a robust economy with those kind of numbers, and nothing incentivizes people to go to work more than paying them more.”

Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, who will be the main co-sponsor of the legislation, said it’s time to end generational poverty and elevate the living condition of the working poor in Kentucky.

“The minimum wage in Kentucky has been $7.25 an hour since 2009,” McGarvey said.  “If you work 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year at $7.25 an hour, that’s $15,080 per year.  You can’t have a comfortable life for yourself, much less if you’re trying to raise a family.  That’s unacceptable, and this bill aims to make it better.”

During a press conference earlier this summer, Senate Majority Leadership unanimously said they opposed raising the minimum wage. 

When told that, Thomas replied, “They may have told you no, but their constituency is singing a different tune.  I guarantee you by the time we get to January, they will have somewhat of a different attitude, and we’ll be able to at least talk, which we haven’t done before.  Once we start talking, we can get some movement going forward.”

Thomas has introduced similar bills during the past four sessions, none of which received even a committee hearing.

The measure is currently designated BR 91 and can be read here: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/22RS/BR91/orig_bill.pdf.