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Minimum wage talks break down over proposed inflationary bump come 2017

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: March 4, 2014 - 7:41 PM

Minnesota legislative talks among Democrats over raising the state's minimum wage Tuesday night included blunt words from the leaders of the House and Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Tuesday night that there is no way the Senate will accept an automatic inflator in a minimum wage bill, "period."

The idea of including an automatic inflationary bump come 2017 has become a key sticking point in the negotiations between House and Senate, both in DFL control, over hiking the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour. House members have backed a $9.50 hour minimum wage that would add an inflationary index.

"Inflation's not going to happen. There won't be a bill," said Bakk, DFL-Cook. "If that's the big hang up, it's too bad because people could benefit from the higher wage."

House Speaker Paul Thissen reacted just as bluntly to Bakk's bluntness.

"The bottom line, to me, if the Senate wants to kill the bill, they should just tell Minnesotans directly and stop playing games with it," said Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

Legislators have been talking for months about raising the state's minimum wage from $6.15 an hour, one of the lowest in the nation. The Senate backed a modest increase, while the House, Gov. Mark Dayton and advocates have backed a hike to $9.50 an hour. 

On Monday night, the Senate said it had rounded up enough votes to hike the wage floor to $9.50 by 2016. Although that was the number backers long said was their target, the potential deal on Tuesday appeared to hit problems over the idea of inflation. 

Bakk said he would vote for a minimum wage bill with an automatic inflator but he could not get a 34-vote majority to approve it. 

"I can't get there," Bakk said. 

Thissen rejected that claim. Of working with the Senate on minimum wage, Thissen said: "It's been a struggle the whole time."

He said he had "every confidence in the world that if Tom Bakk wanted to do indexing he could get those votes."

Thissen said the House is flexible on how exactly inflation is factored into a final minimum wage bill but "we think it is important there is an indexing."

House and Senate negotiators, who met on Tuesday night without agreeing, may continue their talks yet this week.

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