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Associated Press, Published March 10 2013

Poll: Majority of Minnesotans support minimum wage increase

MINNEAPOLIS — A new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll released Sunday shows a majority of Minnesotans support raising the state's minimum wage, but they differ on how much that raise should be.

The Star Tribune reported that 41 percent of Minnesotans surveyed said they would like to see the minimum wage go from its current $6.15 an hour to $9.50 an hour, while 28 percent said they would like it to rise to $7.50 an hour. A quarter of Minnesotans said the minimum wage should stay as is.

The federal minimum wage standard is $7.25.

Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislative leaders have said they hope this year to raise the state's minimum wage, which is among the lowest nationwide. Lawmakers are weighing several proposals.

The telephone poll of 800 Minnesotans was taken Feb. 25 to Feb. 27. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Debra Zippel, a mother of four from Henderson, said it is time for the minimum wage to go up.

“Down here, the standard wage is around $10 an hour,” said Zippel, a 55-year-old health unit coordinator. “I just can't imagine living on $9.50 an hour, and I am the most frugal woman you've ever talked to.”

Small-business owners and business groups have protested a large minimum wage increase, saying it could make it hard to run a business.

“Once it gets to a certain point, they just don't hire anybody,” said Stephen Klein, a 55-year-old construction materials technician from St. Paul.

According to a state study, about 93,000 Minnesota workers, or about 6 percent of the workforce, make the current minimum.

Because Minnesota's minimum is lower than the federal standard, most low-wage workers at large companies make at least $7.25 an hour. Small employers with annual sales under $500,000 can pay their workers $5.25 an hour. Young workers in training can be paid $4.90 an hour for the first 90 days.

“Minnesotans recognize that people are working harder and making less money and something has to change,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who is proposing to raise the minimum wage to $10.55 an hour for large employers by 2015. “I'm quite confident that a minimum wage increase that reaches at least $9 an hour will come out of this session.”

According to the poll, Democrats offer the most support for a large increase. Most Republicans and independents also want the minimum wage to increase, but by lesser margins.

Rep. Tim O'Driscoll, R-Sartell, said the economy, uncertainty about new state taxes and upcoming changes to health care requirements makes this a bad time to approve a minimum wage increase.

“This still remains a very major issue for businesses and job providers,” he said.