Minimum wage hot topic for state leaders

ST. PAUL, Minn. — There are a lot of topics state leaders in Minnesota have on their plate this year and one of the hot ones is minimum wage.

Once legislators get over the excitement of the first day, it is back to the grind. Minimum wage is a topic that was left hanging after last session and is being picked up again.

“Again this year we’ll see some cooperation between the governor, the House, the Senate and I think by working together we’ll be able to resolve that and be able to find a compromise that everyone will be able to live with,” said State Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin.

Behind the Capitol Building doors, lawmakers are discussing a wide range of topics. One of them would impact a large number of Minnesotans, that being minimum wage.

“What bill that is and how much it will be for is really what we’re talking about and I am hoping that we can look at some of the mom and pop restaurants and the impact that a minimum wage hike will have on those and really have a robust discussion,” said State Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester.

Before the legislative session ended last year, the House came up with their solution to the minimum wage battle.

The state’s current minimum salary is $6.15 an hour, although most business must pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The bill calls for $9.50 an hour and a 40 hour work week before hitting overtime across all industries.

Some on the Senate side are not ready to jump on board yet.

“Let’s let the market work. We can’t create wealth through minimum wage anyway, but let’s not create more hardship on consumer purchases,” said State Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester.

Others are concerned that while it will be good for the workforce, it may lead to a smaller one.

“You might be helping some but you’re losing jobs on the other end and so I think we have to really watch that very closely, have good information, good hearings to look at that and make a decision that’s good for Minnesotans,” said State Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester.

State Rep. Jeanne Poppe said she thinks the House bill does that for the most part.

“There’s room for discussion along with what the amount is, how that’s actually going to be done. There are things along the fringes that I think we’re going to be spending some time with too,” Poppe said.

The leaders we spoke with say that this will likely be a fast session but one that will end with some sort of new minimum wage in place. What that will look like will all depend on how the discussions shake out.

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