Posted at: 09/25/2013 10:59 PM
By: John Doetkott
Governor Renews Push To Raise Minimum Wage
(ABC 6 News) -- On Wednesday, the governor of California signed a bill that will raise that state's minimum wage to $10 an hour, prompting Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to resume similar efforts here.
The issue ran into a deadlock in the last legislative session, but the governor has high hopes it will pass the next time around.
According to the Associated Press, Governor Dayton said he would be disappointed if the legislature didn't raise the minimum wage and would settle for $9.50 an hour, a dramatic increase from the current rate of just $5.25 an hour.
Minnesota currently has the lowest minimum wage in the Midwest, and one of the lowest in the country overall.
Most Minnesota companies actually fall under the federal standard requiring them to pay workers $7.25 an hour, but smaller companies are subject to the state wage, and employers say any increase could put a serious strain on their businesses.
“When these labor costs are artificially increased then something has to give," said Chris Holloway, owner of Press Coffee and Tea Lounge in Rochester.
Holloway said that while he pays employees over minimum wage, any increase would have a ripple effect that could negatively impact his current employees.
“Businesses like mine, you'd have to either cut the number of employees or cut the hours that you're giving employees which would affect customer service."
And while any increase could pose a challenge to business owners, for job seekers it could be a tremendous opportunity.
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development held a public forum on employment issues facing people with disabilities.
Officials said that specifically for young people, finding a job with a livable wage is becoming increasingly difficult.
“More and more they're being challenged to find jobs outside of the minimum wage bracket,” said Claire Reeve, chair of the State Rehabilitation Council. “Because there are so many adults who are also looking for employment that are choosing a job that's maybe below where their current skill level might be."
But still some say the focus shouldn't be on the base wage, but on increasing training to help people earn more over their lifetime.
"My thought is, $9.50 is not a livable wage either. One person cannot support a family on $9.50 an hour,” Holloway said. “So why not make it $15 or $20 an hour? And I think the governor and others know the answer to that, it's not sustainable."