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Rep. Kendra Horn 

Horn Favors Regional Approach To Minimum Wage


Rep. Kendra Horn

My earliest memories of spending time with my dad were in our family grocery store. From the time they put a sign out front announcing my birth – with my name, weight and length – to the time I learned how to pack a bag of groceries without breaking the eggs or smashing the bread.

I understood even then that it was our family's store, and the people who worked there were like our extended family. 

But it wasn't until I got older that I understood what it took for my dad, and his parents before him and their parents before them to keep the lights on, and what it took to take care of the people who worked for them. It became clear that even when business owners, especially small business owners, care deeply about their employees, there are still very real and hard choices they have to make. It is an honor and a weight that they carry.

Right now, too many people across this country are simply not making enough to make ends meet. We haven't raised the minimum wage in 10 years. And that wage is worth almost 15 cents less now than it was in 2009. It's time that we act.

But the bill that is before the House right now, which would take every state to $15 an hour without taking into account that Shawnee is different from San Francisco and Oklahoma City is different from New York City, could do more harm than good.

For places where the cost of living is higher, and the minimum wage is already approaching $15, it's more realistic. In fact, $15 might not be enough in some places. But for small businesses in states like Oklahoma, doubling our minimum wage could literally put them out of business.

Just last week, the Congressional Budget Office found that more than three million Americans could lose their jobs with this increase, and many of those would be in states like Oklahoma.

We need to increase wages to keep up with the cost of living. But in order to fix this, we need a scalpel and we need immediate action; we don't need a sledgehammer and to push things down the road. We must take into account regional differences – the cost of living, and the cost to do business. We need to do it in a smart, sustainable way.

That's why I co-sponsored the PHASE Act. It increases the minimum wage incrementally and regionally. It's based on critical numbers and facts – the cost of living, typical wages in the area, and the cost to run a business. This reasonable solution protects jobs while helping lift workers out of poverty. We don't have to choose between policies that are good for people and policies that are good for our pocketbooks.

We need to have everyone at the table in this conversation – businesses of all sizes, workers, families and community leaders. This is a tough issue to balance, and we need everyone to have a voice in it.


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