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Minimum wage debate stalled; lawmakers mull tying future hikes to inflation

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When it comes to a minimum wage increase, DFLers at the Minnesota Capitol may be reading from the same book, but the House and Senate are not on the same page.

Specifically, the House's version of a minimum wage bill has an index while the Senate's does not.

The Star Tribune explains that House members want new legislation to include automatic increases tying the wage to the rate of inflation (although they'd be capped at 2.5 percent). But Senators are ready to close the book on that idea.

The chambers have agreed in principle on a minimum hourly wage of $9.50 by 2016. That's a higher wage than the Senate had originally wanted. DFLer Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis tells the Star Tribune he expected that when his chamber compromised on the wage, the House would reciprocate by dropping the automatic increases.

Hayden and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk tell the newspaper a minimum wage that is indexed to inflation would fall at least 10 votes short of passage in the Senate.

MinnPost's Doug Grow suggests Senate sluggishness on both the minimum wage measure and new tax cuts could be part of a logjam created by a plan for a new Senate office building.

Bakk is a firm supporter of putting up a $63 million office building across University Avenue from the Capitol. The Senate quickly approved the plan but it has stalled in the House, where the Rules Committee has not scheduled a vote.

MinnPost says Senate Republican leader David Hann is among those who've suggested DFLers may be delaying some legislation to use as bargaining chips in Capitol dealmaking but Bakk denies that.

The question of whether a minimum wage should be indexed to inflation is popping up in a number of state Capitols this year.

New Hampshire's House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a minimum wage bill that includes an index. The New Hampshire Business Review says a Republican lawmaker who supports a wage increase unsuccessfully argued against indexing, saying “We don’t place bills into law that do things year after year. We don’t do that here.”

The bill faces a more difficult path in New Hampshire's Republican-controlled Senate, the Business Reveiw says.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley is pushing to tie the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index, but the House of Delegates rebuffed his plan earlier this month.

Louisiana is one of the few states that has no minimum wage. Their Legislature is weighing several proposals to establish one, including some that would tie it to inflation, the Times-Picayune reports.

Here in Minnesota some business owners have taken to establishing their own minimum wage. The Business Journal reports that pet supply retailer Chuck & Don's is the latest, announcing Wednesday that all of its workers will be paid at least $10.10 an hour.

That follows the accolades that President Obama tossed at St. Paul-based Punch Pizza during his State of the Union message for making a similar move.

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