Minnesota minimum wage talks stall over proposed inflation bump

Plans to include an automatic inflation adjustment in the bill divide DFL leaders in the House and Senate.

Minnesota legislative talks among DFLers about raising the state’s minimum wage stalled Tuesday night amid blunt words from leaders of the House and Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said that there is no way the Senate will accept an automatic inflater 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 increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.

House members have backed a $9.50-per-hour minimum wage with 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 $9.50 an hour.

The Senate said Monday it had enough votes to raise 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 inflater but he could not get a 34-vote majority to approve it.

“I can’t get there,” Bakk said.

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @RachelSB

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