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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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State might up min. wage

Rep. Tom Rukavina wrote a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage.

First-year student Dylan France said he can barely get by on the $5.15 an hour he makes bagging groceries at Kowalski’s Market.

State Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said he would aim to fix that by increasing the state’s minimum wage through a bill he wrote. He said he doesn’t think people should work for substandard wages.

He said that because the state’s minimum wage isn’t adjusted for inflation, people can’t live on it alone. If it were adjusted, he said, the minimum would be approximately $8.50 an hour.

The Senate version of his bill, which already passed 37-28, would increase the minimum wage to $6.10 by July 1 and $7 by July 1, 2006. The House version would increase the minimum wage to $5.90 by July 1 and $6.65 by July 1, 2006.

France said he welcomes an increase.

Rukavina said, “Think of what this will do for people.”

In the House, the bill’s fate is unknown. It was referred to the House Commerce and Financial Institutions Committee, where it will get its first reading. Rukavina said the House Republican majority disapproves of the bill and that it will likely kill the bill before it reaches the floor. Many Republican legislators said they think the minimum wage should stay where it is.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Minnesota’s minimum wage is in sync with the majority of states that stick to the $5.15 federal level. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage than the federal level. A few states have either a lower wage than the federal level or no law mandating minimum wage.

Rukavina said he wrote the bill because minimum wage does not keep up with inflation.

“Minnesota has always been, at least they were, been above the minimum wage,” he said.

Rep. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, the vice chairman of the House Commerce and Financial Institutions Committee, said there is a philosophical difference between the minimum wage as a living wage and as an entry-level wage. He said he sees it as the latter.

While he wants everyone to make as much money as they can, the minimum wage should encourage people to receive higher education, so they don’t make the minimum, he said.

Gazelka said he also worries an increase could put more stress on small businesses and hurt their profits.

In turn, they will have to raise prices on products and services or take a cut in pay themselves, he said.

“So in the end, everybody has to come back and pay,” he said.

Rukavina said an increase would most likely affect hospitality businesses. He said a restaurant owner could adjust prices on food to help pay employees.

Pat Weinberg, owner of Espresso Expose and the Purple Onion Cafe, said an increase would not affect his businesses. He said it would affect owners who can only afford to pay minimum wage.

But nobody makes minimum wage anymore, he said.

Lori Ann Vicich, director of strategic communications for the University Office of Human Resources, said students who work University jobs would not see the effects of an increase, unless minimum wage were increased to more than $6.50 – the University’s floor wage for students.

According to her office, approximately 5,000 students hold University jobs, making anywhere from $6.50 an hour to $50 an hour.

France said he works 15 hours a week to help pay his way through college. He said he is looking for a University job that would pay more than his current job. So far, he said, he hasn’t had any luck.

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