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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 25 2013

Wage experts: Minimum wage hike would help Minn. economy

ST. PAUL – Minnesota minimum wages would rise from $6.15 to as much as $10.55 an hour under bills lawmakers are examining this week.

The proposal’s first committee votes could come this week.

Two wage experts told a House committee Monday that, despite what opponents say, raising the minimum wage would help the state economy.

“We’ve seen a continuing pulling apart” between the rich and poor, Douglas Hall of the Economic Analysis and Research Network told House members.

Hall said that studies show that higher wages help the economy and they do not hinder employers’ hiring. He predicted that 4,820 jobs would be created if the wage were raised to $10.10.

Raising the Minnesota minimum wage to $10.10 would affect 600,000 workers, he said, nearly a quarter of the state workforce.

“It’s very much a women’s issue,” he added, saying 57 percent of those affected would be women.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, used Moorhead as an example about why the minimum wage increase would hurt. He said Moorhead cannot attract an Applebee’s restaurant because North Dakota next door has a lower minimum wage.

Hall said a study of several Upper Midwest states shows Minnesota businesses pay much better wages than others, in part because of the high concentration of union representation.

Clergy back Dayton

A group of clergy members said Monday they support Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget because it would help Minnesota’s needy residents.

They also urged lawmakers and Dayton to close what they call “loopholes” in state tax law that allow corporations to escape paying $1.9 billion in taxes.

The clergy, members of the Twin Cities-concentrated Isaiah organization, said they will spend 40 days at the Capitol asking that families be considered during the budget debate.

“These families do not have hordes of high-powered lobbyists to lobby for them,” the Rev. Steven Cook of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Cloud said.

The clergy refused to discuss budget details, but the Rev. Paul Slack of Minneapolis’ New Creation Church said of the Dayton budget plan: “As a whole, we believe it is a good recipe.”

Ed groups join

Education groups that are not always on the same page came together Monday to support funding all-day kindergarten, more per-pupil money and teacher development and evaluation support.

Leaders from Education Minnesota, the Minnesota School Boards Association and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators said such moves would help reverse years of budget woes.

“Our class sizes are now so large, we’re putting our future workforce at a disadvantage,” said Gary Amoroso, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota teachers union, said research has shown that offering all-day kindergarten is an effective tool for closing achievement gaps and improving graduation rates.

“You can’t build anything without a strong foundation, especially a child’s education,” Dooher said.

Kirk Schneidawind, deputy executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association, said the system of professional development and evaluation for teachers mandated by the Legislature in 2011 would lead to improvement, but it would be expensive.

“The 2011 Legislature created this mandate, but it’s up to the 2013 Legislature to pay for it,” he said.

No-unionization bill

While a movement grows to allow home day care workers and personal care attendants to join unions, Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, introduced the Family Freedom Act to prohibit the move.

“Families who are running businesses out of their homes or people who have hired personal care attendants should not have to worry about the additional cost that unionization imposes on their business or cost of care,” Franson said. “This legislation ensures that those who are hired as independent contractors do not have split loyalties between the families they work for and the union bosses who want more money from hard-working people.”

Union leaders Monday said they are backing a bill to allow 9,000 child care providers who receive state subsidies to join unions. They say a union could help the providers deal with inspectors, regulators and politicians and it could help them have an impact on writing state rules.

Exchange heads to votes

The Senate rules committee voted along party lines Monday to move a bill establishing a new way to buy health insurance to the full Senate.

The so-called health care exchange legislation would give Minnesotans a mostly online way to buy insurance. If the state does not have this in place soon, the federal government will establish an exchange as part of new federal health care laws.

The Senate panel’s vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed, marked the ninth committee that passed the bill by Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick.

The House’s version of the bill is expected to be debated by the full House on Monday, with the Senate taking it up a few days later.