Republican Rep. B.J. Marsh (#136) said if forced to, he could not live on Missouri's current minimum wage, but added that he still does not know how he will vote on a ballot initiative on the issue this November.
Marsh said he has "mixed feelings" about a proposed ballot initiative to raise the state's minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50 an hour. "I know I couldn't live on it. That being said, I'm not saying I'm for it or against it," Marsh told me in a recent interview. "It's certainly difficult to raise a family on it right now," he said.
When I asked if his constituents deserve to know how he will ultimately vote on the issue, Marsh replied, "I don't tell anyone how I vote."
"I don't tell anyone how I'm going to vote before I cast a vote in the legislature, that's just how I am," Marsh added.
Democratic challenger in the #136, James Owen, said he will vote to raise the minimum wage.
"It will raise the standard of living, produce jobs and attract a stronger, more professional workforce," Owen said.
Opponents of the minimum wage increase have said the cost of the hike would fall on small businesses, and could force some of them to leave the state or shut down altogether.
"I don't believe that," Owen replied, when I put that argument to him. "I believe it will improve the jobs we already have."
Why should the government have anything to do with setting workers wages?
"That's like saying we shouldn't have government people inspecting meat. We need to have the free market be as effective as possible, but it also needs to be fair. Everything else is going up with inflation," Owen said.
In his nightly door-to-door travels, Owen said he has met countless people in the #136 district who depend on the minimum wage.
"A lot of people are on it, and they are not just in college or high school. They are older people, raising families. Maybe they don't have time to train for a higher wage or promotion. I don't think those people should be punished," Owen said.
So far, Owen estimates he has talked to around 3,500 people in the district. He said while people are split, "basically 50-50 on stem cells," he has not met one person against the minimum wage.