ST. PAUL — Minnesota is on the cusp of adopting one of the nation's highest minimum wages after the Senate voted Wednesday to gradually boost it to $9.50 per hour.
The 35-31 vote, with three Democrats joining all Republicans in opposition, brings the bill a step from a supportive Gov. Mark Dayton. The House planned to vote on the measure Thursday.
The state would push its floor wage from $6.15 per hour now to $9.50 by 2016, with increases after that tied to inflation. The raises come in three steps, starting with a bump to $8 this August, then $8.50 in 2015 followed by another increase of a dollar.
Sen. Jeffrey Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said the increase won't solve all problems for those at the bottom of the economic rung. But, he said, Minnesota would "at least have a floor that starts to get them toward a living wage."
State data shows that as many as 350,000 people could be in line for a bigger paycheck, 60 percent of them women.
Minnesota is one of four states currently beneath the federal minimum wage of $7.25, though many workers automatically receive the federal rate. Some workers such as baby-sitters, taxi drivers, nonprofit volunteers and others are exempt from the minimum wage. The Minnesota wage hasn't gone up since 2005.
When fully phased in, the new wage could be in the nation's top five. Washington state currently leads at $9.32 per hour, but Connecticut and Maryland recently enacted laws to get to $10.10 within a few years.
With Congress showing little movement on President Barack Obama's plea to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, many states have been plowing ahead independently. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states have had minimum wage increase bills before them this year. Advocates have been successful in four so far — West Virginia and Delaware as well as Connecticut and Maryland.