Dayton says he’d ’settle for’ $9.50 minimum wage

Published 1:50 pm Wednesday, September 25, 2013

MAPLEWOOD  — On the same day California’s governor signed a bill upping the state’s minimum wage to $10 within three years, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton made it clear he’d be disappointed if the Legislature doesn’t push up his state’s wage floor next session.

Addressing a retiree council of the AFL-CIO, Dayton said Wednesday it’s wrong that Minnesota has a lower minimum wage than all of its Midwest neighbors and one of the lowest in the country. It hasn’t gone up since 2005.

While the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour often applies, some workers in Minnesota can earn as little as $5.25 from small employers or $6.15 from larger companies.

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“What does that say about Minnesota and our commitment to working men and women?” Dayton asked the crowd.

Competing versions in the Democratic-led House and Senate bills were substantially apart last session. The House bill would have raised the rate in three stages until reaching $9.50 by 2015; the Senate’s bill topped out at $7.75. Leaders say they hope to reach an agreement to act on soon after the Legislature reconvenes in February.

The Democratic governor added that he would prefer to see a rate above the $9.50 possibility but he would “settle for that for now.”

Business groups have opposed an increase, saying it could lead to a reduction in low-wage jobs. Dayton argued that when wages don’t keep up with the cost of living because those minimum-wage workers are more likely to seek public benefits, such as food stamps and subsidized health insurance.

The bill signed Wednesday by California Gov. Jerry Brown raises that state’s current minimum of $8 an hour to $9 on July 1, 2014, and then to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016.