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Minimum wage bill looking unlikely

Published 10:08am Friday, May 17, 2013

A minimum wage increase in Minnesota is looking less likely.

Local legislators and business officials will wait to see whether the state’s representatives and senators discard a minimum wage increase until next year.

A joint conference committee on the issue has yet to take place, but top House and Senate Democrats said Thursday morning a deal to raise the minimum wage from $6.15 an hour up to at least $7.75 likely won’t happen this session due to disagreements over how much to raise it.

Sen. Tom Bakk said Thursday there are not enough votes among Senate Democrats to pass the $9.50 minimum wage sought by House Democrats. The Senate previously passed a version of the bill raising the minimum wage to $7.75.

Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, said it could be difficult to get both sides to come to an agreement before the end of the legislative session next Tuesday.

“There’s going to be kind of a challenge, how do we get to a point that is acceptable,” she said.

Business officials around the state are watching the legislature’s decision closely. Sandy Forstner, executive director of the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supported getting Minnesota’s minimum wage in line with the $7.25 an hour federal rate.

“We don’t believe businesses in the state of Minnesota should be at a competitive disadvantage,” Forstner said. “If businesses in the state of Minnesota are forced to pay higher wages than the state of Iowa, they would be placed at a competitive disadvantage.”

Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, introduced a bill to mirror the federal minimum wage earlier this session. Sparks acknowledged the debate between House and Senate Democrats, he said an agreement on minimum wage isn’t out of the question yet.

“There’s still time,” he said. “That bill is in conference committee, and we can still have some discussions.”

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