The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 7, 2014

Deal reached on raising minimum wage in Minnesota

Automatic increases could be suspended by state in bad economy

ST. PAUL — Minnesota's minimum wage would rise to $9.50 per hour within a few years and continue going up unless a governor's administration applied the brakes, according to terms of an agreement announced Monday.

The outline described by leaders of the House and Senate resolves one of the biggest remaining standoffs in a session on course for an early adjournment. The wage legislation could move through both Democratic-led chambers this week; it was scheduled for a Senate vote on Wednesday. Gov. Mark Dayton said he would sign the bill.

Legislators and Dayton are also pressing to complete a budget plan that gives extra dollars to schools, extra pothole repair money to local transportation departments and raises to caregivers for the disabled and elderly. A second tax relief package could also come together soon. A public works construction package still remains and will take center stage after Easter.

"This session is really starting to come together," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. The session must conclude by May 19 but there is a serious push to finish sooner in this election year.

A bill to boost the minimum wage was considered a must-do item after an agreement eluded lawmakers a year ago. It would affect some 350,000 workers at or near the bottom of the pay scale.

Minnesota's current minimum is $6.15 for large employers, though most workers qualify for a higher federal minimum. Minnesota's base rate hasn't gone up since 2005. If the bill passes, Minnesota would go from having one of the nation's lowest minimum wages to one of the highest.

"No Minnesotan should have to work a 40-hour week and continue to live in poverty," House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

Even at $9.50 per hour, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage would earn just shy of $20,000 before taxes.

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