Democrats want to increase state minimum wage

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Democrats are looking to increase the state’s minimum wage.

Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, is proposing legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage. Photo by T.W. Budig

Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, is proposing legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage. Photo by T.W. Budig

Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, is proposing to increase the minimum wage for employers with annual revenue of more than $625,000 by more than a dollar an hour.

Her bill would push the minimum wage up from $6.15 an hour to at least $7.50.

Eaton, who presented her bill at a Senate DFL rollout of top legislation Thursday, Jan. 10, said it’s been a Minnesota value “that honest, hard-working people deserve a fair minimum wage.”

“Whether it’s the teenager with a part-time job or the low-income worker struggling to stretch each paycheck, putting more money in the pockets of minimum wage earners is good for the whole economy,” she said in a statement.

A couple with two children working for minimum wage must work 155 hours a week in order to support them, Eaton said.

Democrats gauge the proposed minimum wage hike by comparing it to the existing federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Only the states of Minnesota, Arkansas, Georgia, and Wyoming have state minimum wages lower than the federal.

Five states, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama, have no minimum wage laws at all, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota have higher minimum wages than Minnesota: $7.25 an hour.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, described Eaton’s minimum wage bill as “something very close to me.”

Eaton’s bill does not change the minimum wage for smaller employers, those bringing in less than $625,000 a year.

That is left at $5.25 an hour.

But the legislation includes a minimum wage inflation adjustment provision.

Ryan Winkler, chairman of the House Select Committee on Living Wage Jobs, believes the House will vote to increase the minimum wage.

“I don’t know what the magic number is,” said Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.

He said he favors an inflation adjustment provision.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton supports increasing the minimum wage.

“Yes, for over 10 years the governor has supported a higher minimum wage,” said Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci. “In fact, he believes the minimum wage should be a living wage – so that a working person is able to support a family of four, at least at the federal poverty level.”

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce opposes raising the minimum wage.

“Raising the minimum wage negatively impacts job growth and hurts businesses that are already struggling in a tough economy,” said Ben Gerber, the chamber’s Energy & Labor/Management Policy Manager.

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