Minnesota leads on minimum wage again

The minimum wage bill will provide just compensation for the state’s low-income workers.

Until recently, Minnesota was one of only four states in the nation with a state minimum wage lower than the federal rate. Minnesota’s wage was particularly low when considering neighboring states; North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa raised their minimum wage after the federal government’s rate increased to $7.25, but Minnesota’s stood still.

That changed this week when Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill that will raise the minimum wage at large businesses to $9.50 an hour by 2016.

The Legislature rightly took a cautious approach to implementation: The law raises the minimum wage incrementally. Allowing smaller employers to pay a lower minimum wage also makes sense. The law defines large employers as businesses with gross sales over $500,000. The legislation requires smaller businesses that take in fewer sales to pay a $7.75 minimum wage in 2016.

Starting in 2018, all minimum wages will increase annually, depending on inflation. The bill caps the increases at 2.5 percent. Indexing the minimum wage to inflation will allow employers to compensate workers fairly without having to wait for action from the Legislature. However, it’s important that lawmakers closely monitor the yearly increase and suspend the raise during periods of economic hardship.

It’s also important that those who are willing and able to work receive proper compensation, and we are grateful to have a Legislature and governor that agree.

On Monday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill prohibiting cities from establishing mandatory minimum wage laws. We hope other states look to Minnesota, not Oklahoma, on this issue.

The minimum wage bill was long overdue, but we support the Legislature’s efforts to allow Minnesota to lead again on minimum wage.