ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — As Minnesota's legislative session nears, one of the state's champions of raising the minimum wage issued a challenge to his Capitol colleagues Tuesday: Live on that pay for a week.
Five House colleagues accepted the invitation from Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, to sustain their own budgets on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $290 per week, before taxes.
Minnesota's minimum wage is $6.15 an hour, one of the lowest rates in the nation, though most at that level qualify for the federal wage. The U.S. government exempts some industries.
Winkler's minimum-wage goal is $9.50 an hour by 2015. That would automatically rise with inflation if a bill he favors prevails.
An agreement with the Democratic-controlled Senate, which has approved a bill with a smaller increase, hasn't yet been struck. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is also urging action on the issue during the session, which starts next Tuesday.
"Raising the minimum wage is not going to solve the (low) number of living-wage jobs in the state," Winkler said. But it would put more money in people's pockets, he said.
Business groups have opposed the minimum-wage increase, arguing that it could reduce low-wage jobs.
Winkler said the wage-challenge exercise would help lawmakers understand the plight of minimum-wage workers. Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, organized the challenge.
Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, said the tight budget would cause him to focus on the essentials, citing transportation as an example. "I actually have to think, 'Can I take that trip?'"
The other challenge participants are: Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis; Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis; Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia; and Rep. Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells.