More than 800 Kentucky workers have benefited across the Commonwealth because of the executive order raising the minimum wage for state workers and contractors signed last summer by outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear.
In July, Gov. Beshear raised the minimum pay for state workers to $10.10 an hour and the tipped minimum wage to $4.90 an hour. Additionally, Beshear required those who contract with state government to pay a $10.10 minimum wage to their employees, although such measures wouldn’t take effect until contracts are renewed.
There are currently 68 counties with state minimum wage workers now making $10.10 an hour with counts ranging from 1 to 73 employees per county. At 463, the department for Natural Resources accounts for over half of all state-hired minimum wage workers, many of whom are hired on as wildfire fighters in eastern Kentucky during the dry months, according to officials in the Personnel Cabinet. The next largest group of workers is the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities which employ a combined 145 minimum wage caretakers. Perry County is home to the most minimum wage workers at 73, followed by Jessamine County with 64, Christian County with 47 and Hopkins County with 42. The overall price for the minimum wage increase was estimated to be $1.6 million or .005 percent of the state budget for 2015.
Source: KCEP analysis of Personnel Cabinet data provided November 24, 2015
Worker productivity has climbed in Kentucky by over 42 percent since 1979, but hourly compensation has only grown 4 percent over that time. While jobs have grown since the recession, wages have remained stagnant. There is growing support for a private sector minimum wage increase to bring hourly compensation closer in line with the productivity gains the state has seen. In the meantime, state government should continue to lead by example by paying a fair wage to Kentucky workers.