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On minimum wage negotiations, a 'stalemate' for now

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, President Obama Updated: March 5, 2014 - 6:15 PM

After some blunt words and two days of tense meetings, legislative negotiators on minimum wage have reached an impasse for now.

Lawmakers are tied up with whether or not to add an inflationary bump to their move to phase in the proposed increase in the wage floor to $9.50 an hour by 2016.

Against a backdrop of national Democrats, including President Obama, Democratic campaign arms and several members of the Minnesota congressional delegation, pushing for a federal minimum wage hike, DFLers controlling the Minnesota House and Senate have reached what Rep. Ryan Winkler called a "stalemate."

"It doesn't look like we're making a lot of progress," Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, told his fellow lawmakers as they attempted to negotiate a minimum wage compromise on Wednesday.

Since Monday, when Senate officials said for the first time they would support a minimum wage of $9.50 an hour, House and Senate officials have been unable to agree whether future minimum wage increases should be automatic.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said on Tuesday that if the House insisted on including an inflationary bump, "there won't be a bill."

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, replied, "if the Senate wants to kill the bill, they should just tell Minnesotans directly."

While tempers appeared to have cooled publicly by Wednesday, legislators were still stymied over the question of inflation in minimum wage increases come 2017.

"The inflator is a non-starter in the Senate. I don't have the votes," Sen. Chris Eaton, a Brooklyn Center Democrat who is the Senate's chief negotiator, said on Wednesday.

The negotiators, who met every day this week, will not meet publicly again until Monday. Winkler suggested that in the interim it may be helpful for lawmakers to talk about creative approaches to dealing with the inflation question.

At least one DFL House member tried social media to move things forward:

Photo: A minimum wage rally at the state Capitol greeted lawmakers as they returned to session last week // Source: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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