ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota's minimum wage would rise to $9.50 per hour within a few years and continue going up unless a governor's administration applied the brakes, according to terms of an agreement announced Monday.
The outline described by leaders of the House and Senate resolves one of the biggest remaining standoffs in a session on course for an early adjournment. The wage legislation could move through both Democratic-led chambers this week; it was scheduled for a Senate vote on Wednesday.
Legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton are also pressing to complete a budget plan that gives extra dollars to schools extra, pothole repair money to local transportation departments and raises to caregivers for the disabled and elderly. A second tax relief package could also come together this week. A public works construction package still remains and would take center stage after Easter.
A bill to boost the minimum wage was considered a must-do item after an agreement eluded lawmakers a year ago. It would affect hundreds of thousands of workers at the bottom of the pay scale.
Minnesota's current minimum is $6.15 for large employers, though most workers qualify for a higher federal minimum. Minnesota's base rate hasn't gone up since 2005. If the bill passes, Minnesota would go from having one of the nation's lowest minimum wages to one of the highest.
"No Minnesotan should have to work a 40-hour week and continue to live in poverty," House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said.
The wage would be indexed for inflation starting in 2018, with an annual cap of 2.5 percent. A decision on whether or not to block an automatic increase would rest with the Department of Labor and Industry.
Lawmakers had generally agreed to hit the $9.50 mark in a series of steps beginning this summer. But House leaders had insisted on raises tied to inflation starting in 2017. Top senators said they couldn't muster support for purely automatic increases.
As recently as late March, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said an inflation-linked wage bill would be difficult to pass. He suggested a constitutional amendment letting voters decide if the wage should keep increasing, but that idea landed with a thud.