Archived Story

Minimum-wage hike gathers steam

Published 10:11am Thursday, February 14, 2013

ST. PAUL — One day after President Obama called for a $9 an hour federal minimum wage in his State of the Union address, efforts to raise the lowest hourly pay allowed in Minnesota are gathering strength.

Gov. Mark Dayton, House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk all say it is time for Minnesota to lift the minimum wage, which now stands at $6.15 — one of only four states with a wage less than the federal minimum.

“We want work to pay,” Dayton said Wednesday. “It’s long overdue.”

House Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, on Wednesday introduced a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour and index it to inflation. That bill has drawn the support of House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, and a host of other DFL committee chairs, though critics say the bill could threaten a still-fragile economic recovery by making workers unaffordable.

Hortman said the increase is needed. “The more you raise the minimum wage, the more people you raise out of poverty,” she said. Supporters say that as many as half a million Minnesota jobs pay less than $9.50 an hour.

Thissen, a Minneapolis DFLer, said a minimum wage increase is likely to pass this session. “Among the things that are moving, that probably has a much better chance than many others.”

About 93,000 Minnesotans, or about 6 percent of the state’s hourly workers, now earn at or below the current minimum wage according to a 2012 report from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Those making the minimum or less tend to be young, female and from outside the state’s biggest cities, the report said.

Obama, in Tuesday night’s speech, said one of the surest ways to start families on a path into the middle class is by raising the minimum wage.

“Tonight, let’s declare that, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty — and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour,” he said.

A split along party lines?

That proposal received a frosty reception in the Republican-controlled U.S. House on Wednesday. Republican U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann, Erik Paulsen and John Kline all oppose the latest proposal.

“The best approach right now for all working Americans is to enact a pro-growth agenda that, first and foremost, gets federal spending under control and government out of the way of our job creators,” said Troy Young, a Kline spokesman.

Most Minnesota Democrats in Congress gave Obama’s plan full support, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz.

“It’s good for jobs, for people and for business,” said Nolan spokesman Steve Johnson.


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