FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Democratically-controlled House Labor & Industry Committee has approved a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. It now goes to the full House for a vote.

The bill's sponsor, House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg), told the committee that more than 400-thousand Kentuckians currently work for less than the proposed increase.

“Seventy-percent of Kentuckians who work for the minimum wage are women, so it's not teenagers anymore,” he said.

The proposal would phase in the increase over three years: from the current 7.25 an hour, to $8.25 starting July 1, 2015; $9.15 next year; and $10.10 in 2017.

“The overall intent of any bill like this, I think, is to help equalize and re-establish something that we've lost in our country, and that's middle-income individuals,” said Stumbo.

But opponents say raising the wage would hurt small business, forcing some tough decisions.

“Do they cut hours? Do they have fewer employees? Do they cut benefits?” asked Shannon Stiglitz of the Kentucky Retail Federation.

The bill contains exemptions for some business whose sales are less than $500-thousand a year, but Republicans weren't buying it.

“This whole bill will make us uncompetitive with other states, which I don't think we need. So that's why I'm voting no,” said Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger.)

The bill did pass on a 12-3 party line vote.

“We're going to have to help the poor people. We're going to have to come up with wages where they can live,” said Rep. Charles Miller (D-Louisville.)

A similar bill passed the full House last year, but died in the Republican Senate.

Stumbo blames partisan politics, but gave a strictly partisan answer when asked about the bill's chances in the Senate this year.

“If they want to put partisan politics aside and put people first, then I think it will have a chance. If they want to play partisan politics like they do in Washington then it probably won't,” Stumbo told WDRB.

Louisville's Metro Council fought this same battle last year before passing a compromise increase of $9 an hour. That's very unlikely to happen at the Capitol.

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