Governor may veto bill despite petition

Gov. Arne Carlson might never see the signatures of almost 10,000 students from across the state who signed a petition asking for a higher minimum wage.
The Minnesota House passed a bill Thursday to increase the minimum wage from $4.25 an hour to $5.35 an hour. Carlson has vowed to veto the bill, and members of the Minnesota Public Research Interest Group who gathered the signatures said he won’t meet with them.
Last fall about 3,500 people on the University’s Twin Cities campuses signed the petition, which MPIRG used to help lobby state legislators.
The House’s decision to pass the bill fell along partisan lines. Democrats supported the bill because they said no one can live on $4.25 an hour. Republicans opposed the bill because they said increasing the wage would cause a loss of jobs.
Michael Dahl, consumer and economics advocate for MPIRG, said group members have been trying to meet with the governor since December but have been turned away.
“We were told by the (governor’s) office that this was not a hot-button issue this year,” Dahl said. “If our petition signatures and all the public support don’t show that this is a hot-button issue, then I don’t know what is.”
Brian Dietz, a press aide for the governor, said Carlson gets thousands of requests for meetings. “It’s just physically impossible for the governor to meet with everyone about these issues,” he said.
Dietz said Carlson wants to veto the bill because an increased minimum wage could mean fewer jobs and overall lower wages. He also said the governor would prefer that if the wage had to be increased that it be done at the federal level.
Rep. Kevin Knight, R-Bloomington, voted against increasing the minimum wage. He argued the move would not improve the state’s overall economy. Instead, the Legislature should try to attract companies that offer higher-paying jobs to Minnesota.
“We’re focusing on low-paying jobs when higher-paying jobs are leaving the state,” Knight said.
Dahl said a higher minimum wage is necessary because people cannot meet their basic needs on $4.25 an hour. Ideally, he said, companies would provide liveable wages because they could not hire an employee for less.
“If power is equally shared and a number of conditions are met, then people will receive what their hour of work is worth.” Dahl said. “But that isn’t the case, so you have to have the government step in and make that check.”
MPIRG’s next step is to keep pressuring the governor. “The governor has got his feet in concrete right now, and we’ve got to do our best to make him budge,” Dahl said.