DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said today he would be comfortable with increasing Minnesota's minimum wage to $9.00 or $9.50 an hour.
Dayton's preference falls below the DFL proposal advancing in the House, which would increase the minimum wage from $6.15 an hour to $10.55 by 2015. But it's higher than the $7.50 minimum wage increase that Senate DFL leaders introduced early in the session. There also are Senate bills at other levels, including $10.55. Dayton told reporters that he thought his preferred range was a "good target." He said he believes the minimum wage should be enough to allow someone working full time to support a family of four at the poverty level.
"Then with more experience and training, they can go up and achieve the American dream," Dayton said. "But we want work to pay, and if we're letting businesses hire people for less than they need to get out of poverty, then the rest of us as taxpayers end up paying all these other programs to support them."
Dayton also said he supports automatic inflationary increases to the minimum wage. That provision is in the House and Senate proposals.
Business owners pushed back against any minimum wage increase during a Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee hearing.
Mike Hickey of the National Federation of Independent Business told lawmakers that a big increase would make it harder for a teenager to find a job.
"When you have to pay some very young person that much money who needs a lot of supervision, I think a lot of employers are going to look for other alternatives," Hickey said. "They're not just going to pay somebody that much money who has virtually no experience in life. That's just a reality of ramping the minimum wage up that high."
Labor groups and supporters of an increase argued that a higher minimum wage will help boost the state's economy.