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Tipping point: House passes lower minimum wage for tipped workers

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Should Minnesota's tipped workers have the same minimum wage as those who don't get tips?

On Tuesday night, the House passed a bill that would let businesses pay those tip-earning workers $8 an hour, the Session Daily says – lower than the new minimum wage passed in Minnesota just one year ago.

Why the debate? Well, proponents argue upping the minimum wage puts a strain on restaurants, and puts some server jobs at risk. In addition, the extra costs could mean a rise in prices.

But those who don't support this tiered minimum wage argue it's penalizing workers who do good work and, as a result, get good tips.

How does it work

The minimum wage ($8 right now) will rise to $9 this August, and $9.50 by the same time in 2016.

The House bill (sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo, a Republican from Farmington) would hold tipped workers' wages at $8 an hour – though with some conditions.

An employee could only be paid the $8 an hour if their tips during a work week bring their average pay to above $12 an hour.

Essentially, the employee would need to get at least $4 in tips an hour to be eligible for the $8 wage.

If the employee doesn't get enough tips to reach that $4-an-hour mark, they would be paid the state's higher minimum wage.

Will it become law?

One year after Democrats – in charge of the House, Senate and Governor's Office at the time – pushed through a bill raising Minnesota's minimum wage to $9.50, DFL lawmakers seem uninterested in rolling that back for tipped workers.

Since the Republicans only control the House, that makes this new bill's chances at becoming law pretty low.

There is a companion bill in the Senate, and it's sponsored by Republican Gary Dahms, of Redwood Falls. Leaders in the DFL-controlled Senate have not signaled any interest in passing a similar bill. The companion is currently in a Senate committee.

And Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated he likes the new minimum wage law the way it is.

The House bill passed 78-55 – so a very small number of Democrats did vote in support of it.

The Star Tribune says DFLers in the House tried to add a few amendments to the bill – establishing paid sick leave, and making the minimum wage higher than $8 an hour if a CEO earned more than $1 million in a year. But none of the amendments landed.

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