House Committee Talks Minimum Wage

House Committee Talks Minimum Wage Click to Enlarge Photo:

Sep 10, 2013 at 2:37 pm

ST. CLOUD (KNSI) - Minnesota's economy is good, but it's no longer great.

That was the general theme of a presentation by the Select Committee on Living Wage Jobs. The MN House task force held a meeting on Tuesday at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

The five-member committee took heard testimony from central Minnesotans on a number of issues related to a push to increase Minnesota's minimum wage from the federal rate of $7.25 to $9.50. 

According to statistics compiled and presented by the committee, the median household income in Minnesota has declined 10 percent in the last 10 years, and in 2011, one in four families were considered low-income.

The DFL's Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley chairs the committee - he says, more Minnesotans have dropped into the low income tier not only due of job losses, but also wages that haven't kept up with the increasingly high cost of living.

Winkler says the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 results in increased dependence on government assistance, and traps workers at the bottom of the economic security ladder, without an ability to spend into their local economies.`

"If you take a broader look at local economies and service-type operations, raising wages for those kinds of workers will increase demand for those types of services and better for businesses," Winkler says. "So, the kind of argument that this is creating a dead-end really isn't true - this is an opportunity for people to take better care of themselves, have a little more money in their pocket, and spend on local goods and services."

The committee will be heading to Willmar, Moorhead, Bemidji, Grand Rapids before returning to the Twin Cities to put together their findings.

Winkler says, when they arrive at the 2014 Legislative session, they will be touting a report with information beyond simple wage laws.

"We'll look at the incentives the state provides for jobs, and whether those are accountable," Winkler says. "We'll look at training issues, and whether people are being trained for the jobs coming online. We'll look at a whole range of things so that low-wage workers have a better chance of getting up and out of poverty."

The Select Committee on Living Wage Jobs was formed in early 2013. It includes local DFL Representative Zachary Dorholt.

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