Gov. Dayton signs minimum wage bill into law
In signing a new minimum-wage law Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton took some verbal shots at Republicans who argued the pay increase would cause job losses.
A few hundred minimum-wage proponents cheered as Dayton signed the bill, which raises the wage in steps to $9.50 an hour an hour for large businesses in 2016 and indexes the wage to inflation starting in 2018.
The bill, which will take Minnesota from having one the lowest minimum wages to one of the highest, passed the state House and Senate this year with no Republican support.
Each time a minimum-wage increase is proposed, Republicans say jobs will leave the state, Dayton said at a bill-signing ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.
"Well, jobs have been going to leave the state for as long as I've been around these parts, some 38 years," he said, referring to his terms in public office. "Every time Democrats do something to help people ... jobs will leave state. ...
"Well, you know what? I'm sort of surprised after 38 years there are any jobs left in the state," the Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor joked.
"But the opposite is true. There are 155,000 more jobs in Minnesota today than when I took office three years ago."
All Republican legislators voted against the minimum-wage bill last week, saying it would hurt businesses struggling to overcome the recent recession.
Two GOP lawmakers who also are running for governor took umbrage at Dayton's comments.
Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, called the governor's comments "the height of hypocrisy and arrogance (coming from) a guy who has never worked at a minimum-wage job."
Zellers said he paid his way through college by bagging groceries, delivering pizzas and working many other minimum-wage jobs. To say he and his GOP colleagues don't care about workers shows the governor is "detached from reality," he said.
"The fact that he is still focusing on hourly wage jobs and has done absolutely nothing to bring in careers to our state proves that he's out of touch."
Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, criticized Dayton for questioning legislators' motives.
"I believe that people who run for public office and serve generally have best interest of the public in mind. I certainly do," he said. "We just have a different vision of how to provide a higher standard of living for all Minnesotans."
The new law's first step is raising the wage to $8 an hour in August for larger employers, then $9 a year later and $9.50 in 2016. It then will be linked to inflation in 2018. According to the state, about 325,000 Minnesotans could get a raise at some point.