Kelliher: Minnesota should boost minimum wage

DFL gubernatorial candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher said Friday she wants to see Minnesota increase its minimum wage.

Kelliher, the DFL-endorsed candidate who is facing DFLers Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza in the Aug. 10 primary, said small businesses should have to pay workers at least $6.75 an hour and larger businesses should have to pay $7.65.

Kelliher said Minnesota's minimum wages of $5.25 for small employers is less than the minimum offered in surrounding states. Most Minnesota minimum wage workers are covered by the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. It applies to large companies with revenues of at least $500,000 a year.

"I think it's one of the reasons we've seen more Minnesotans falling further and further down the economic ladder," Kelliher told MPR's Morning Edition.

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Raising the minimum wage "sends a really strong message to Minnesotans that we believe in their economic potential," she said.

Kelliher's minimum wage proposal comes after GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer proposed reducing the minimum hourly wage restaurants pay their wait staffs.

Emmer said Minnesota should join other states in allowing employers to pay service workers who make tips $2.13 an hour, saying that some servers and bartenders make $100,000 when factoring in tips.

Kelliher said many servers work multiple part-time jobs to get by. She said Emmer was "stealing the tips off the table of hardworking Minnesotans."

Emmer plans a town hall meeting with servers on Wednesday to discuss wages, tips, taxes and health care.

(MPR's Cathy Wurzer contributed to this report.)