Minimum wage set to rise; Dayton expected to sign legislation after House passes bill
ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s minimum wage is about to rise.
“I think this is a great trade off, minimum wage for a better life for a great many people in this state,” Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-St. Paul, said.
Republicans said they agree higher wages are needed, but many did not like the bill that passed.
“This is too much, too fast,” Rep. Mark Uglem, R-Champlin, said.
The measure raises the minimum wage for businesses with sales of at least $500,000 in steps until it reaches $9.50 an hour in 2016. Smaller businesses’ minimum wages will go to $7.75 in three years.
“Before this bill, Minnesota’s minimum wage was $6.15,” said Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji in a statement. “(The wage of) $6.15 was an embarrassment to Minnesota and all businesses I know of paid more than that.”
Also in the statement, Rep. Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, added the legislation also would ease the demand on public programs.
“More and more families are getting by on low wages,” he said. But only because they rely on public assistance to make ends meet. This bill will help workers get a much needed raise, but it will also help those families rely less on public support programs that are funded by all taxpayers across Minnesota.”
President Barack Obama, who wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from the current $7.25, praised the Minnesota House action.
“With this important step, Minnesota joins a growing coalition of states, cities, counties and businesses that have taken action to do the right thing for their workers and their citizens,” Obama said in a statement the White House released. “I commend the state Legislature for raising their minimum wage and we look forward to Gov. Dayton signing the bill into law soon.”
The president urged Congress “to follow Minnesota’s lead.”
A Mazeppa representative joined Uglem in saying the bill will most hurt Moorhead residents.
“North Dakota is going to zoom your district by,” Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, told Rep. Ben Lien, D-Moorhead. “It is going to kill more jobs in your district and other districts throughout Minnesota.”
In response, Lien said that Moorhead’s population is increasing and his constituents are willing to pay higher prices a minimum wage increase might bring.
“If prices do go up marginally,” Lien said he hears from Moorhead residents, “we are willing to keep business in Minnesota and to support those low wage workers who will benefit from this bill.”
“The economy does not work that way,” Drazkowski shot back.
Uglem said that Minnesotans drive to Fargo, N.D., to shop now and more will do that once minimum wages begin to go up this August.
Rep. Jason Metsa, D-Virginia, said Canada has raised its minimum wage and that has not hurt northern Minnesota.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, said Minnesotans will benefit. “By raising the Minnesota wage, we will see Minnesota workers doing better than they do in surrounding states.”
Republicans linked the minimum wage effort to a new Senate office building a House committee approved last week. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said Senate Democrats agreed to the minimum wage bill in exchange for the House panel’s vote.
“You guys traded small business owners’ money for a new Senate office building across the street...” Garofalo told Democrats. “What we are seeing today is a bargain among thieves.”
Democratic leaders, however, deny there is a link between the issues. They said the minimum wage bill is needed to raise pay for 357,000 Minnesotans.
“Find it in your hearts to put a couple bucks into the pockets of people, especially young people,” Rep. Tom Anzelc, D-Balsam Township, said.
“We can choose to go the low tax, low wage route...” Winkler said. “Or we can take a different path. We do not have to accept a race to the bottom.”