Missouri minimum wage hike now has some workers making more than double those in Kansas

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A waitress carries a vegan meal at Cafe Gratitude on August 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. / AFP / DAVID MCNEW (Photo credit should read DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images)

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Many Missouri workers got a raise on New Year's Day with the minimum wage going up to $9.45 an hour.

It previously was $8.60 in 2019, the first year in a series of increases approved by voters in 2018 that will eventually raise minimum wage from $7.85 to $12.00 per hour.

If you work on the Missouri side of the state line you now have to be paid a minimum wage of $2.20 more than the same employees across the state line in Kansas where it is $7.25.

But for servers at restaurants the pay discrepancy is even more dramatic. Tipped employees must be paid at least half of the new 2020 rate of $9.45.

At Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen on State Line Road, that means paying servers more than double the rate of those across the street in Kansas.

"We're on the state line. We can literally spit into Kansas," Vic Allred said. "Their rate there is $2.13 per hour; ours is about to be 5 bucks. So you are talking about every one server you have here you have two servers there."

Allred, also a Missouri state lawmaker, said Proposition B, which will eventually raise the state's minimum wage for servers to $6, puts Missouri at a competitive disadvantage.

"I think you'll see some large restaurant chains that aren't coming to Missouri now," he said.

Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Executive Director Bill Teel said, despite some notable closures in 2019, restaurants managed to stomach the first rate increase.

But he worries about subsequent years.

"If your costs go up, you have to do something. You have to take some action," Teel said.

"They are going to have to do one of two things: They are going to have to raise their prices or they cut labor, one of the other, because our margins are our margins and margins are thin," Allred said.

Jazz's owner said most area cooks, dishwashers and others are already making more than minimum wage, so the increase won't affect them.

But Teel believes all kinds of goods and services we all buy and use could go up this year as a result of the minimum wage increase for other industries.

"All the costs end up catching up. If you are a minimum wage worker, unless you develop additional skills that allow you to level up, you are always going to be on the lower end of that labor spectrum," Teel said.

The group that pushed for the minimum wage increase back in 2018, Missouri Raise Up, said a quarter of Missourians will get raises as a result, and it won't result in job loss or price increases.

A measure that would have raised the minimum wage in Kansas to $11 in 2020 and to $15 in 2021 failed to gain traction in the Kansas Legislature last year.

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