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Raise the wage?
What started as a Twitter exchange turned into a standing-room-only crowd for a debate at Maple Lake Bowl on Monday evening.
Should the minimum wage be raised?
Former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and Rep. Ryan Winkler tackled the issue with moderators Cyndy Brucato, of MinnPost, and John Williams, of WCCO Radio.
Given home-court advantage, Koch yielded the floor to Winkler.
“This is a discussion about what kind of communities we want to live in and what kind of economy we want to have in Minnesota,” Winkler said.
He contended that many full-time workers are forced to turn to state aid or charities for help to raise a family.
“About 40 percent of jobs in Minnesota don’t pay enough to support a family,” Winkler said.
The DFLer from Golden Valley authored legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.15 to $9.50 per hour.
Koch began by saying she agreed with Winkler.
“Both of us want to see more money in people’s paychecks,” she said.
She suggested that recent legislation is negatively impacting consumer confidence and the economy overall.
“The DFL legislature just raised taxes $2.3 billion, with a great deal of that placed on Minnesota businesses,” Koch said. “We are just now starting to implement the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This is going to create more burden for businesses.”
Rather than adding more regulations, Koch believes, “We need job creators to be confident that Minnesota is a place to expand, grow and hire workers. That competition for employees is going to drive wages.”
Brucato ran with Koch’s claim, asking Winkler to respond to the notion that raising the minimum wage would cause businesses to stop hiring, cut hours and positions and potentially go out of business.
Winkler refuted that claim, saying two of the fastest growing states – Oregon and Washington – have a minimum wage of about $9.
“Minnesota is a state with relatively high tax and high public services,” Winkler said. “We give people incentive to work. … A minimum wage of $9.50 would not make us an island. Those states that have a higher minimum wage have been the fastest growing already.”
Contrary to conservative claims, Winkler believes that raising the minimum wage would put more money back into the economy.
But, Koch countered that doing so would have unintended consequences. Grocery stores, for example, operate on a 1 percent profit margin, so increasing labor costs would result in reduced hours, reduced employees, higher prices, or a combination of the three, she said.
“What you find is it oftentimes has a negative effect on the very people you’re proposing to help,” Koch said.
Williams wondered if Koch sensed any implication to raise the minimum wage.
“I would argue for encouraging the market, business, innovation and higher skilled workers in the workforce rather than the government picking a number,” Koch said. “I think the market determines the minimum wage.”
More information appears in this week's Messenger.
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