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Battle prep underway for Minnesota minimum wage fight

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Despite momentum in a national movement led by Democrats to raise the minimum wage, the proposal's future is uncertain in Minnesota – where the DFL controls the Legislature.

President Barack Obama has made it a priority to push for a hike in the federal standard from $7.25 to $10.10. Thirteen states raised their minimum wage with the coming of the new year (see USA Today graphic here). State minimum wages are now higher than the federal $7.25 level in 21 states, the newspaper reported.

Another 11 states are mulling hikes this year – with more than half likely to approve it, USA Today reports, citing the National Employment Law Project, which closely follows the issue.

But the Star Tribune says that in Minnesota, efforts to hike the standard may again sputter – even in a state with a DFL governor and DFL-controlled Legislature.

Minnesota House DFL lawmakers plan again to pursue a $9.50 per hour minimum wage, and Gov. Mark Dayton has said a wage hike is among his top priorities. But there is trepidation among Senate DFLers, the Star Tribune reports.

“We could run a minimum wage bill out the first day and just slam it home. But it might create a disaster for the rest of the session,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, told the newspaper. He said a wage hike that's too big could hurt businesses and put jobs at risk.

Senate Democrats last year backed a hike to $7.75, considerably lower than what their House colleagues proposed. (The state's current rate is $6.15 one of the lowest in the nation, although most businesses have to pay the federal $7.25 rate.) Last year, wage hike legislation died amid the disagreement.

Obama has said he supports a minimum wage hike to $10.10. He has also hinted that he is considering an executive order that would raise the rate for federal contractors as he waits for Congress to consider a rate hike for all U.S. workers.

A number of Democrats have tried to make a case that raising the minimum wage could help curb income inequality in America, although other experts say the impact would be minimal.

Critics say the wage hike sought by Obama is too big and ill-timed.

"Raising the minimum wage to an unprecedented level in a weak economy with high youth unemployment is questionable at best," James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation, wrote last month.

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