Minnesota legislative agreement reached on minimum wage

Monday’s Legislative announcement of a $9.50 minimum wage resolves a divisive issue at Capitol.

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March 4: These demonstrators showed what they think should be a top priority for legislators.

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Minnesota’s legislative Democrats have struck a deal to raise the wages of the state’s lowest-paid workers.

Details of the agreement are expected to be released by House and Senate leaders Monday morning, but two sources with knowledge of the deal said Sunday that the minimum wage would rise to $9.50 an hour and future increases would be linked to increases in inflation.

“I feel really good,” said Deputy Senate Majority Leader Jeff Hayden, a Minneapolis DFLer who had long worked on the minimum wage issue. “I think there are going to be a tremendous amount of smiles [Monday.]”

The agreement will likely end a major source of tension at the Capitol and allow DFL lawmakers to lay claim to giving hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans a wage boost.

Despite DFL control of the Capitol and a national campaign by President Obama to raise the federal minimum, Minnesota’s minimum is stuck at $6.15 per hour, one of the nation’s lowest.

House Democrats and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton united behind the $9.50-per-hour minimum, but Senate leaders insisted they could not get 34 votes for a $9.50-an-hour minimum wage that also included indexing, which would mean future wage rates would be adjusted upward as prices rose.

That left House and Senate leaders at an uncomfortable standstill over one of the Democrats’ top priorities.

“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,” House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said last month.

After Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said that although he would support the House’s plans, he could not get enough members to do so, unions and other Democratic allies held rallies, delivered postcards and contacted senators to campaign for the wage increase.

The minimum wage deal came just after resolution of another contentious issue at the Capitol: a new senate office building. Bakk had insisted the new building was needed.

On Friday, House leaders gave their approval.

Many Republicans and some Demo­crats had said that draft plans for the building were too luxurious and at $90 million, including parking structures, were too expensive, especially since the building would not have housed all 67 senators.

The plans House leaders approved last week actually increased the total cost of the building itself but included office space for 67 senators, stripped out some amenities and eliminated a parking ramp. Senate leaders are expected to give the building final approval Monday afternoon, clearing the way for construction of a $77 million office space.

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @RachelSB

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