LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT/WYMT) - If Kentucky voters directly decided the fates of two subjects on lawmakers' agenda this legislative session, they would raise the state's minimum wage and institute a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants.
A new Bluegrass Poll - conducted for WKYT-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and WHAS-TV - found 61 percent of voters believe the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10 an hour while 57 percent want the smoking ban.
“It's a 2:1 margin. Kentuckians favor raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour,” said The Herald-Leader political writer Sam Youngman. “This is gets news for Alison Lundergan Grimes. It is for Democrats in general. This is something that started in Washington. Democrats want to push this issue because they know it polls well.”
A bill aimed at raising the minimum wage cleared a House committee in January.
The measure is a top priority of House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who says the current minimum wage doesn't provide a living wage. The Prestonsburg Democrat says full-time employees working for the minimum wage make less than the average cost of a used car in the U.S.
Under the bill, the state's minimum wage would gradually increase from the current $7.25 to $10.10 an hour on July 1, 2016. There would be a 95-cent increase this July and another 95-cent boost in July 2015.
Kentucky's minimum wage hasn't been raised since 2009.
While many Kentucky communities already have their own smoking bans, the issue remains divisive in Kentucky which is among the nation's top tobacco-producing states. A bill proposed in the 2013 legislative session failed.
The Bluegrass Poll found only 33 percent oppose a statewide smoking ban while 57 percent are in favor of outlawing smoking in bars and restaurants.
“By a margin of 7:4, Kentuckians are in favor of a statewide smoking ban. Certainly the tide has turned on this. Kentucky is ready to go forward with it. Leaders in Frankfort are in favor if this. It is certainly looking like a reality day by day,” said Youngman.
For the poll, SurveyUSA interviewed 1,200 adults with home phones and cell phones between January 30 and Tuesday. Of the adults, 1,082 were registered to vote in the state with 404 being registered Republicans eligible to vote in the May Republican primary. Primary questions asked only of Republicans. Other questions were asked of all registered voters.