Minn. should lead again on minimum wage

Minnesota’s minimum wage rate is one of the lowest in the nation.

In 2006, Minnesota claimed the highest minimum wage in the Midwest, at $6.15 per hour. But soon after championing the cause of fair wages for its workers, Minnesota fell behind the minimum wages in neighboring states.

North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa all raised their minimum wage after the federal government’s rate increased to $7.25, but Minnesota’s rate remained the same, according to a MinnPost article published last month.

Minnesota remains one of only four states in the nation with a state minimum wage lower than the federal rate. According to the 2013 Minnesota Minimum-Wage Report, the value of the Minnesota minimum wage in 2013 was 30 percent below its 1974 level when adjusted for inflation.

Though Minnesota’s minimum wage is now mostly symbolic — representing the failure of state lawmakers to keep up — some workers in the state continue to earn $5.25 from small employers and $6.15 from larger companies, the Associated Press reported last fall.

Thankfully, there’s hope the state Legislature will take up the minimum wage issue in the upcoming session. Gov. Mark Dayton has said that he’d like the wage to be increased to at least $9.50 an hour. Several House Democrats are also looking to raise the wage.

Lawmakers should work to make Minnesota lead the Midwest again in minimum wage, allowing residents to afford the cost of living and to raise a family in the state. The Legislature should also tie the wage to the rate of inflation, ensuring workers are paid a just wage each year, regardless of political divides. Exemptions for small employers should continue, preventing potential job losses as a result of the wage increase.

This session, the state Legislature must finally work to remedy the state’s uncompetitive minimum wage.