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Minn. Legislative Roundup: Minimum Wage, U Funding, Staff Pay

Posted at: 01/10/2013 9:49 AM
Updated at: 01/10/2013 3:34 PM

nullMinimum wage hike among first bills

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A big jump in Minnesota's minimum wage could be on the horizon.

Among the priority bills in the Democratic-controlled Legislature is a proposal to raise the floor wage to $7.50 for most workers at the bottom rung beginning in August.

That's $1.35 more than the current hourly minimum that large employers must pay their employers. Smaller businesses, as defined by their annual sales, pay a lower rate but that would rise as well.

The bill introduced in the state Senate goes further by making future increases automatic and linked to inflation. The minimum wage last went up in 2005.

Many minimum-wage workers in Minnesota automatically receive the higher federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, although some workers such as babysitters, taxi drivers, nonprofit volunteers and others are exempt.

'Bloat' criticism could hurt university at Capitol

State budget leaders have a message for the University of Minnesota: The money won't come easy.

The university already faced a difficult outlook in its funding quest thanks to a $1.1 billion budget deficit.  Now, the university is being grilled about its cost-efficiency after the Wall Street Journal last month reported its administration grew almost twice as fast as its student body in the last decade.

Democrats and Republicans are calling for more scrutiny of administrative costs before budget hearings begin.

University President Eric Kaler says claims of administrative bloat are unfair.

The university will seek $1.2 billion for its two-year budget - 8 percent more than it received in 2011.

Tussle over staff pay sours session start

A tussle over pay cuts for Senate Republican staff members has caused an early rift in a legislative session where harmony was the goal.

Moving from the majority to the minority has cost Republicans more than half of their staff. And most of the 39 remaining staffers are seeing their pay chopped by as much as 40 percent.

Republicans howled over the cuts Thursday, decrying them as "mean-spirited" and "shameful." They failed in an attempt to keep employee salaries from dropping more than 10 percent.

But Democratic Majority Leader Tom Bakk argues some GOP staff members were hired near the top end of the pay scale two years ago and are falling back into jobs with fewer responsibilities.

The Senate has about 200 employees, many of whom fill nonpartisan roles.

Bakk says cuts are necessary because the Senate faces an internal budget deficit and unknown costs related to a former employee's lawsuit over a sex scandal.

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