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“I think it should be a gradual increase and not immediate … to allow companies to slide into it,” said Golby, 64. Otherwise, he said, “There may be some layoffs.”
Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association, said if the minimum wage jumped suddenly, his members would be forced to reduce jobs.
He said the fact that 37 percent of those polled support increasing the wage to something below $9.50 an hour is “somewhat encouraging.”
“I think we all know that level is going to go up,” Nustad said. He would like legislators to ask: “What’s the reasonable level that’s not overly dramatic?”
No matter what final dollar amount they land on, lawmakers will have to settle on a phase-in time for the new wage, determine which businesses would have to pay it and whether any will be exempt.
In Minnesota, about 114,000 workers were paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or less in 2013. According to the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, more than 460,000 Minnesotans, or about 16 percent of all workers, were paid less than $9.50 an hour in 2012.
Income is a big divide
The poll found that higher-income Minnesotans were least likely to support a minimum-wage increase.
Nearly half of those earning more than $75,000 annually said the minimum wage should remain $6.15 an hour, where it has been since 2005. Most employers pay the federal minimum, although some employers are allowed to pay the lower state minimum.
According to the poll, Democrats were most comfortable with a significant increase — 64 percent said the rate should be increased to $9.50 and another 27 percent said it should be increased, but by less. Nearly all independents — 85 percent — favored an increase. So did Republicans, but by a smaller share. About 58 percent said boost wages, though only 14 percent said as high as $9.50. Another 36 percent of Republicans said keep the minimum unchanged.
“I don’t see that government has any business telling private business how much to pay their people,” said Richard Larcher, 72, of Dora Lake. “That’s just silly, and it will cost jobs.”
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @RachelSB