The Minnesota House has passed a bill to increase the state minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2015.
The vote Friday was 68 - 62. Under the measure, the increase to $9.50 will be done in three steps. After that, increases will be automatic and linked to inflation.
Republicans contend the increase will hurt many small businesses. But the bill's author Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley countered that helping out low-wage workers will boost the state economy.
"Low-wage workers spend an increase in income more quickly than anybody else. That increase gets multiplied throughout the economy," Winkler said. "By putting more money into the pockets of low-wage workers, we're increasing demand for the goods and services that businesses sell."
Winkler said 350,000 low-wage workers would benefit from his bill.
The bill also lowers the threshold for overtime pay from 48 hours a week to 40 hours. But an amendment was adopted to exempt agriculture workers. The Senate is expected to vote on a bill next week that would set the minimum wage at $7.75 an hour.