Minnesota Democratic lawmakers neared a breakthrough in a year-long deadlock on raising the state's minimum wage from one of the nation's lowest to one of its highest on Monday night.
If they can work through other details, the state’s minimum wage would leap from $6.15 an hour to $9.50 an hour.
While the House and Senate still have a distance to go before the new wage becomes law, the move toward a $9.50 an hour wage floor marks a significant victory for advocates who have been campaigning for months to get the all DFL-controlled Legislature to back a major leap for the state’s wage floor.
On Monday evening, Senate negotiators on the minimum wage increase said they now support finding a compromise to raise the minimum to $9.50. Last year, the Senate backed only a more modest increase, while the House -- and Gov. Mark Dayton -- supported the higher level.
"This is the crux of the bill," said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm. Tomassoni is a veteran lawmaker and a Senate negotiator on the minimum wage measure.
The deal is far from done.
On Monday night, House negotiators rejected the Senate's proposed hike because it included only the wage for big businesses and not other key parts of the measure.
"I just don't think we can take it piece by piece," said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley. He told his fellow lawmakers: "usually every concession has a price."
Among the outstanding issues: whether the minimum wage should automatically go up with inflation, if employers should be allowed to pay young workers less than the minimum and over how many years the new wage should be phased in.
Senators, who have spent months enduring pressing from traditional DFL allies to back a large wage hike, said their move to support a $9.50 an hour wage for most employers took significant work.
"I don't understand why your can't support your own language," Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, told Winkler.
Leaving the committee after talks broke down, she said she was "shocked" that the House refused to go along with the Senate's move toward $9.50.