Minnesota House votes to raise minimum wage

  • Article by: RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2013 - 1:07 PM

About 350,000 low-wage workers in the state could see a raise by 2015.


it’s a faceoff: Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, beamed after passage of his minimum-wage bill on a 68-62 vote Friday at the State Capitol. Meanwhile. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, appeared to have less than celebratory thoughts.

Photo: Photos by GLEN STUBBE • gstubbe@startribune.com ,

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The Minnesota House on Friday moved to vault the state’s minimum wage from one of the nation’s lowest to the highest.

“The more people who are making more money, the better,” said DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, sponsor of the measure which would raise the state’s current $6.15 hourly wage floor to $9.50 by 2015, making good on a key DFL promise to help the state’s lowest-paid workers.

A more modest bill that would raise the minimum to $7.75 an hour, slightly above the current federal standard of $7.25, is set for a Wednesday vote in the Senate, where even some Democrats are concerned about the impact of steep pay hikes on small businesses.

“I understand the impact that this potentially can have on, you know, small hardware stores and little mom-and-pop cafes, family-owned businesses that might have a few employees,” said Senate DFL leader Tom Bakk, of Cook. “I think $9.50 is too much. … I’m kind of concerned about overreaching on this.”

Gov. Mark Dayton, however, has said he would welcome a measure to lift the minimum wage to between $9 and $9.50 an hour and House leaders hailed their vote as a victory for ordinary people.

The Minnesota minimum applies only to a relatively small number of workers whose jobs are exempted from the federal wage standards. At least 93,000 Minnesota workers now earn $7.25 an hour or less. Bumping the state minimum to $9.50 would give about 350,000 workers a raise.

Once the bill passes both bodies, the House, Senate and governor will likely compromise on a wage increase.

The $9.50 rate, which would be phased in over time, would top all other current state minimum wage levels.

Washington state now pays the most — $9.15 an hour. That state’s minimum also rises with inflation.

The Minnesota House bill also would tie wage increases to the cost of living, so the rate would rise over time, whether or not lawmakers voted increases.

Once it’s fully phased in, the House bill would allow small businesses to pay their employees $8.50 an hour and permit all businesses to pay young people a training wage of $8 an hour. Right now, the state allows similar tiered wages.

‘War on work’

A series of business groups — including retailers, small businesses, restaurateurs and nursing homes — protested the House move.

They say the increase would cripple employers’ flexibility and could cause businesses to scale back the number of jobs they provide.

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said if Minnesota lifts the minimum wage to $9.50, the state will stick out like a sore thumb.

“You cannot have one state that is higher than the surrounding states,” said Davids, whose southern Minnesota home is about 14 miles from the Iowa border. Iowa’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and rises with the federal rate.

On the House floor Friday, Republican members said the wage bill created a “war on work.”

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