Bevin believes governor had eyes on Democratic political prospects in wage action; Beshear counters that state is leading by example

06/11/2015 08:38 PM

Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive order raising the hourly minimum wage of executive branch employees to $10.10 has Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin wondering whether the decision was made to boost the prospects of Democrats Jack Conway and Andy Beshear in their runs for governor and attorney general.

What’s more, Bevin on Wednesday questioned Beshear’s authority in mandating private contractors with the state pay employees who work on government property at least $10.10 per hour or $4.90 per hour for tipped workers.

“Look at the timing of this,” Bevin said at a meet-and-greet in Bardstown. “Apparently after seven-and-a-half years he’s finally decided that he’s been underpaying his employees and he wants to do something about it when his son and Jack Conway are running for statewide office. This is a political stunt.”

The Louisville investment manager, who said he pays the employees in his businesses more than the minimum wage, said government salaries will be “based on what the market can bear” if he’s victorious in the Nov. 3 election against Conway.

“The government didn’t dictate that to me,” Bevin said of his employees’ compensations.

“The government shouldn’t be in that role. I’ll make the same kind of decisions as governor as it relates to the state’s employees.”

Beshear, in a statement to Pure Politics Thursday, defended his executive order as a means for state government to prompt other employers in Kentucky to similarly raise their wages.

The move will cost about $1.6 million in all and affect 510 workers who earn below $10.10 hourly or $4.90 per hour in tipped positions plus another 269 employees who make about $10 per hour currently, Beshear’s office said in a news release Monday.

The Democratic governor’s executive order takes effect July 1, and his office announced Thursday that he will promote the wage increase Friday at stops at the Paul E. Patton Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center in Hazard, the Joseph “Eddie” Ballard Western Kentucky Veterans Center in Hanson and Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park in Gilbertsville.

“As a businessman, surely Mr. Bevin realizes that when people work hard at a full-time job, they should have enough money to live on,” Beshear said in the statement. “… My decision was not motivated by a political agenda but by the fact that raising the minimum wage reduces turnover in many low-paying jobs, decreases the costs of training, increases productivity and reduces inefficiency. Plus, offering a living wage helps pull our people off of public assistance.

“That’s why state government, as Kentucky’s largest employer, took the lead in setting a living wage for our people.”

Beshear’s executive order will apparently continue if Conway win this fall’s gubernatorial election.

“Jack supports Governor Beshear’s decision to raise the minimum wage for state government employees and applauds the governor for taking this action,” Conway spokesman Daniel Kemp said in an email to Pure Politics Wednesday. “Additionally, Jack favors raising the minimum wage for all of Kentucky’s working families.”

While Beshear said at a press conference in Louisville on Monday has the authority to make sure “contractors who do business with the state pay a living wage,” Bevin disagrees.

“I think that is beyond the purview of his responsibility and authority, but I think he’s betting on the fact that this may be taken up in the courts and he’ll be long gone and he’ll get the credit for it without having to deal with the repercussions,” the Republican gubernatorial nominee said.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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