Kansas' move to boost the state's minimum wage for the first time in two decades is more than a symbolic gesture, Secretary of Labor Jim Garner said Wednesday.

Kansas' move to boost the state's minimum wage for the first time in two decades is more than a symbolic gesture, Secretary of Labor Jim Garner said Wednesday.


A law taking effect July 1 bumps the hourly wage from $2.65 to $7.25 starting Jan. 1. That will mirror the federal minimum after July 24. That will mean a raise for about 20,000 Kansas residents earning wages between the state and federal minimum, he said.


Increasing the state minimum will mean those workers will be paid at the higher level after the first of the year.


"It's a very powerful symbolic achievement. We no longer will have the dubious distinction of having the lowest state minimum wage in the country and that's something we can be proud of, that we no longer have that title," Garner said.


The move comes with the state's unemployment rate at 6.9 percent in May, the highest this decade — and up from 6.2 percent in April and 4.1 percent last May.


Republicans, who control the Legislature, agreed this year to increase the wage that's been unchanged since 1988. They said that would remove it as an issue Democrats can use against them, noting its popular appeal with unions and anti-poverty groups.