- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers said Friday there’s a “real possibility” the Republican-led Senate will pass some form of a minimum wage bill, breathing new life into a measure that’s a top priority of his Democratic counterpart in the House.

Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters that senators are working on the House-passed measure but he didn’t provide details about possible changes.

“We still have some ideas, still have to vet it,” Stivers said.

Asked about the bill’s chances, he replied: “I think there’s a real possibility that something will pass as it relates to the minimum wage in the Senate.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, later said he was encouraged by the development as the General Assembly session heads toward the closing stretch. The 60-day session is two-thirds complete.

“That’s too important of an issue to those folks who toil in those minimum wage jobs, I think, to play politics with it,” Stumbo said.

The House-passed version would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 per hour in July 2016.

That version calls for 95-cent increases in three phases until the minimum wage would reach $10.10. The bill was amended in the House to exempt businesses with annual gross receipts of under $500,000.

Stumbo has said a higher minimum wage would help people struggling to make ends meet at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. He has noted that people working full time for $7.25 an hour make barely more than $15,000 a year before taxes.

During the House debate, opponents said the higher minimum wage would force employers to cut jobs and would add millions of dollars of wage costs for financially strapped school districts and local governments.

The House passed the bill 54-44, mostly along partisan lines, in early February. Since arriving in the Senate, the bill has been referred to the State and Local Government Committee.

Stivers indicated the bill is likely to undergo changes in the Senate.

“I don’t think it would come out of here as is,” he said.

Asked if he’d be willing to come down from the proposed $10.10 per hour level, Stumbo replied: “I’d be willing to do anything that would bring some economic relief to those in minimum wage jobs.”

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The legislation is House Bill 1.

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