Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk is suggesting that Minnesota voters should decide an issue that's divided Democrats in the House and Senate: whether the state minimum wage automatically rises with inflation.
Bakk said Thursday that he's co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope. If they can get it to the November ballot, it would let voters decide if future minimum wage increases are linked to increases in the cost of living.
House and Senate negotiators on the minimum wage issue have agreed on an increase from the current $6.15 an hour to $9.50. But they are stalled over the desire by House Democrats to include the automatic inflator, which Bakk has repeatedly said lacks support among Senate Democrats.
Bakk said he believed voters would pass the amendment if it were on the ballot.
Putting the inflation index in the constitution would take it out of the political arena, he said, expressing worry that if Republicans regain a majority at some point in the House or Senate that they would repeal the inflator and force Democrats to bargain on an issue important to their labor allies.
However,the coalition pushing for the minimum wage hike criticized the constitutional amendment proposal. Labor groups and their allies "do not support legislating by constitutional amendment. Minnesotans elected legislators to govern," said Peggy Flanagan, executive director of Children's Defense Fund Minnesota and a co-chair of the Raise the Wage Coalition.
Bakk himself recently introduced a constitutional amendment that would make it harder to put future amendments on the ballot, by requiring a supermajority vote by the House and Senate.
The constitutional amendment is up for review by a Senate committee on Friday. Bakk said he has not yet polled his caucus members on the issue but said he thinks it should be part of ongoing negotiations over the minimum wage bill, which has been stalled in recent days.