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Minimum wage bill staggers forward

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House and Senate leaders said Friday they will continue working towards a compromise on a minimum wage proposal.

The proposed constitutional amendment Friday passed the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, despite GOP opposition.

The bill would let voters decided whether to link future minimum wage increases to inflation, MPR News reports. MPR reports neither supporters nor opponents of the minimum wage increase want the issue placed on the statewide ballot.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he supports pushing the wage to $9.50 an hour and that there could be "numerous ideas" about how to index the wage to inflation. However, "I'm not sure a constitutional amendment is the way to go."

The Pioneer Press reports Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, says there is not enough support in the Senate to pass a minimum wage bill that contains an inflation index. He also raised the possibility of going higher than a $9.50 wage, which Thissen seemed to resist.

Bakk said he's confident he and Thissen can reach a deal, possibly next week, the Pioneer Press reports.

Minnesota's minimum wage for large employers currently is $6.15, among the lowest in the nation. In practice, most minimum wage jobs in Minnesota pay the federal rate of $7.25 per hour. An increase to $9.50 would make Minnesota one of the highest minimum-wage states.

The proposal has stalled in conference committee over indexing for inflation.

The bill sets the wage at $9.50 by 2015, though a spokesman for Bakk said the official Senate position remains $9.50 by 2016.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he supports raising the minimum wage to $9.50 and indexing it to inflation. He says it should be done through legislation, not constitutional amendment.

"What this bill does today is open a new chapter," said Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing. "This may be our only path forward, and we have to be open to that path," the Star Tribune reports.

The bill now moves to the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Bakk.

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