Minnesota isn’t like the 31 states that were admitted to the union before us, nor the 18 that came after May 11, 1858. As anyone who’s ever lived elsewhere can tell you, we’re not only different-we’re better.
Our state has been an unquestioned leader on quality-of-life issues over the past century and a half, which is why it’s particularly disturbing that on Minnesota’s 150th birthday the status of a minimum wage increase passed by the Legislature remains in doubt.
For those who missed it, the House and Senate overwhelming approved a bill last week that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $7.75 an hour by next year, outpacing the federal minimum wage that will top out at $7.25 an hour in 2009.
Yes, it’s true, setting the floor for a full-time work week at $310-or $16,120 a year-hardly goes far enough. The real debate should be a living wage, paid family leave and universal health care so someone who gets up everyday and works 40 hours a week never has to choose between food and housing and medicine.
But this nominal gesture is nevertheless important because it’s at least a step in the right direction, moving us a little closer to becoming a state where everyone willing to work hard can have the basic dignity that comes with self-reliance.
It’s time for Gov. Pawlenty to quit looking for excuses and sign this legislation because we should only be celebrating what happened in the 1850s today, not rolling the clock back on working families to the 19th century.