Minimum wage talks stall again, amendment bill surfaces in Senate

DFL House and Senate negotiations on a bill to increase Minnesota’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour have stalled again.

Members of the conference committee trying resolve the conflicting bills that lawmakers passed last session met briefly today. They left after Senators rejected the latest House offer, which still includes future automatic increases based on inflation.

“The inflationary factor is still a problem,” said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm. “I don’t know what to tell you other than the offer is not going to be acceptable to us.”

Earlier in the day, two DFL senators co-authored a bill that would let voters decide the inflation matter in a constitutional amendment as soon as this fall.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, contends there are not enough votes in his caucus to pass a minimum wage bill that includes indexing. Bakk said the amendment is an alternative approach.

“You cannot resolve it permanently in statute, because future legislatures and future leaders are going to spar over it as an end-of-session piece on the table, and if it’s in the constitution it can’t be,” Bakk said.

The lead House negotiator said he couldn’t take the proposal very seriously. Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL- Golden Valley, said he still believes the two sides will eventually agree on an increase that includes indexing.

“It’s negotiating noise that we have to put up with before we get to some real discussions with the Senate,” Winkler said. “I don’t believe in punting on second down.”

A coalition of labor organizations and nonprofit groups also rejected the Senate proposal for a constitutional amendment. Raise the Wage Co-Chair Peggy Flanagan said working families have waited too long for a minimum wage increase.

“It’s just time for the Senate to step up and get it done,” Flanagan said.