The Metro Council of Louisville voted Thursday to raise the city’s minimum wage, increasing it above the federally mandated $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour by 2017.
Louisville joins 11 cities that have raised the minimum wage in 2014. It is the first city in Kentucky and the first city in the South to increase the minimum wage.
The vote came after months of intense debate about the benefits that an increased minimum wage would have on low-income workers versus the impact that the increase may have on local business.
The debate over the increase was drawn along sharp partisan lines. All 16 Democrats on the council voted to support the increase, while all nine Republicans voted against it. The city’s Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer said he will sign the increase.
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“It is a balanced compromise solution that gives hardworking families a raise while minimizing the risks of job losses in our city,” Fischer said during the Louisville Metro Council meeting, according to the Associated Press.
The minimum wage increase is not the only workers’ rights issue that has created a partisan divide in both state legislatures and city councils. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is planning a number of attacks on workers’ rights in 2015, including opposing increases in the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and the collective bargaining rights of labor unions.
ALEC is the controversial right-wing lobbying group that has crafted wide-ranging legislation proposed and enacted by conservative legislatures across the country.
Opponents of the Louisville increase claim that businesses will move outside of the city limits to avoid paying the higher wage while still benefiting from city services.
“If we’re going to have Louisville compete, we have to compete on a level playing field,” Republican Councilman Kevin Kramer said, according to Reuters.
The U.S. Labor Department and economic think tanks have debunked many of the most common talking points used to fight boosting the minimum wage, showing that wage increases have long-term benefits for workers and a mostly positive impact on bottom lines.
Efforts to raise the minimum wage have gained traction on both city and state levels around the country, as Congress has balked at raising the federal minimum wage thanks in large part to GOP opposition.
The Chicago City Council this month voted to raise the city’s minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $13 per hour by 2019. In November, Illinois voters approved a non-binding ballot measure that asks lawmakers in the state legislature to increase the state’s minimum wage.
While no cities in the South have increased the minimum wage, voters in Arkansas approved a ballot measure on Election Day that will increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour by 2017.
Arkansas voters joined voters in other states who raised their minimum wage through ballot initiative on Election Day, including Alaska, Nebraska, and South Dakota.