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Lawmakers closer to raising Minnesota's minimum wage

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State lawmakers on Monday reached what the Star Tribune calls a breakthrough in a long-deadlocked debate about raising Minnesota's minimum wage – although disputes persist among DFL leaders and a number of details still need to be worked out.

At issue is the state's minimum wage of $6.15 an hour – although most businesses are required to pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Last year, the DFL-controlled House backed a new standard of $9.50, but the DFL-controlled Senate approved a hike to just $7.75. Things sputtered, and nothing was passed.

The breakthrough came when Senate lawmakers on Monday signaled they were prepared to back the $9.50 level, with the condition that it apply only to big businesses, the Star Tribune reports.

It was a significant milestone in the negotiations over the issue, although House DFL leaders reject the condition the Senate is seeking. And there are other issues to be hammered out: the phase-in plan, whether the minimum wage should automatically go up with inflation, and whether employers should be allowed to pay young workers less than the minimum.

About 350,000 working Minnesotans would get a raise if the minimum wage is hiked to $9.50, putting roughly $472 million each year in their pockets, Dayton has said.

But Republican critics argue a jump in minimum wage from $6.15 to $9.50 will cost the state jobs, and some business leaders agree. Northland's News Center spoke with the president of Grandma's Restaurant, Brian Daugherty, who says a wage increase that large would cause him to look at eliminating jobs, replacing workers with technology such as iPads, and raising prices.

A recent Star Tribune poll found that Minnesotans are overwhelmingly in favor of a hike in the state's minimum wage, but they are split on what that minimum should be.

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.

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