Minimum wage bill advances

A Minnesota House panel has approved a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.15 to more than $10 an hour by 2015.

Members of the House Labor, Workforce and Regulated Industries Committee voted along party lines today to advance the DFL-sponsored bill. Under the measure, the minimum wage would increase in three steps until reaching $10.55 per hour. Automatic increases based on inflation would take effect after that.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said providing better wages will help boost the state economy.

“You need to have a strong middle class,” Winkler said. “You need to have people who work are are able to support themselves and buy things. The economic driver is not just one. It’s not just the other. But for too long our policy has focused solely on businesses and the supply side of economics. I think that’s the great testament to Ronald Reagan. He made us forget all about the other half of the economy, and we need to start turning that around.”

Republicans opposed the bill. They argue the increase will hurt small businesses and leave many low-wage workers without jobs.

Rep. Andrea Kieffer, R-Woodbury, said she believes it’s up to individuals to improve their wages, not government.

“When someone gets a job it’s up to them to become a good employee,” Kieffer said. “And how do you become a good employee? You have a good education. You have a good work ethic, and then you prove yourself in a company and the employer either appreciates you or sometimes you realize you’re much better than the employer thinks and you say goodbye and start your own business.”

Minnesota’s minimum wage was last increased in 2005.