The Minnesota Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage and would index future minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation.
The bill would increase the minimum wage for those who work for large employers to at least $7.75 an hour by August 2008. Small employers would have to increase the minimum wage to at least $6.75 an hour.
Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, says the bill should pass because the state's minimum wage is not as high as other states. She says lower income workers are struggling to pay their bills.
"The fact is that we are falling behind. There are now 25 other states that have a higher minimum wage than Minnesota does," she said.
Critics labelled the bill a "job killer" because a higher wage requirement would increase costs for employers who would then be forced to cut jobs.
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said the state just passed a minimum wage increase in 2005 and that Congress is also poised to pass some sort of federal minimum wage increase.
"There's no need for Minnesota to sprint ahead of what's going on in Washington," he said. "We don't want to be the winner of this race. We don't want Minnesota to be the high cost state. We don't want Minnesota to be that high cost island."
The Senate passed the measure on a preliminary vote of 40-to-23 with final passage yet to come. The Minnesota House is also expected to vote on the bill.