Bloomington legislative round-up: Should the minimum wage be raised?

Proposals for raising the minimum wage in Minnesota have floated various figures at which to raise the hourly rate Minnesota employers must pay their employees.

President Obama called for a $9 an hour federal minimum wage in his State of the Union address.

The Sun Current asked Bloomington’s legislators, “Do you support raising Minnesota’s minimum wage?”

Responses from three of Bloomington’s five house and senate members are as follows:

Melisa Franzen, Senate District 49 (D-Edina): I believe that honest, hard working people deserve a fair wage. The current federal rate is lower than it was 30 years ago, after accounting for inflation. It amounts to about $1.50 an hour less, in today’s money, than it did in 1968.

It is time to have an honest discussion about increasing our rate and a true debate on the impact it will have on Minnesota families and businesses. There will be several proposals this session and we will have an opportunity to discuss the merits of each bill.

Without hearing committee debate I can’t say what the exact rate should be, but I can say that businesses should, and will, be included in this discussion. I know that some businesses have gone out of their way to provide a fair wage. We need to hear their story and talk about the pros and cons they have seen in the decision they made.

Melissa Halvorson Wiklund, Senate District 50 (D-Bloomington): A number of proposals to raise the minimum wage in Minnesota have been circulating around the legislature. One of the first bills introduced in the Senate would raise it to $7.50 per hour for large businesses and would index it to inflation.

A separate proposal in the House of Representatives would raise it to $9.38 per hour. Additionally, a proposal with both House and Senate authors would increase the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour. Finally, President Obama also called for a minimum wage increase to $9 per hour in his State of the Union address last week.

With so many different proposals, it remains to be seen what the final result will be. I would need to study the full economic impact, but ultimately, I would lean toward putting more money in the pockets of lower-income Minnesotans and bringing the minimum wage in line with the current federal level.

Paul Rosenthal, House District 49B (D-Edina): I am open to an increase in Minnesota’s minimum wage because working families will benefit from the increase and this will cause economic growth.

I would like to see our state’s minimum wage set to keep up with inflation, meaning as the cost of goods, services and living expenses increase, so do wages. Many states have addressed this concern and have a much higher minimum wage than Minnesota.

From a business standpoint, there is a growing gap between wages and productivity nationwide. Workers are no longer being compensated for being more productive and this goes against traditional economics. Economic recovery relies on growth in spending.

When working families have extra income, they are likely to spend it in the community on groceries, clothing and other goods and services. This boosts revenues for the state and creates jobs in our community.

Ann Lenczewski, House District 50B (D-Bloomington) and Linda Slocum, House District 50A (D-Richfield) did not respond.

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