The GOP has long adhered to the teachings of its greatest saint, Ronald Reagan. His principal commandment: Thou shalt give all the money to the guys who already have the most, and all boats will rise from their subsequent generosity.
So it’s only natural Minnesota Senate Republicans oppose any hike in the minimum wage. This cuts out the middleman, handing money directly to the intended.
Hence, the good senators stuck a small explosive device in this year’s energy and commerce bill. It would not only bar a city from setting its own minimum wage, but preclude them from mandating paid sick time. The law would be retroactive to 2017.
It just so happens that’s when Minneapolis and St. Paul arrived at a breakthrough discovery: Even when working two jobs, minimum-wage earners were still floundering below the poverty level. Missing days due to sickness only flung them further into despair.
Both cities approved new minimums of $15 an hour, to be slowly phased in over the coming years.
Conservatives and business leaders aren't prone to embracing the morality of such matters. But they should see the pragmatism in this small repair to the American work ethic. Without any reasonable expectation of improving one's lot, there's no incentive to work at all.
Still, great outcry ensued, since the two cities' notion of fairness is far more gracious than the state's or the feds'.
In January, Minnesota's minimum wage reached a new high of $9.86. The federal minimum, hermetically sealed since 2007, remains at just $7.25 an hour, meaning a day's labor might buy dinner for two at Olive Garden if you short the tip.
The bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), worries about keeping state laws uniform. He could achieve this, of course, by pushing the Senate to create a $15 minimum statewide. But he’d prefer about $5.14-an-hour worth of less uniformity. And no sick time. As a banker in his day job, you cannot expect Eric Pratt to concern himself with the trifling hardships that don't apply to Eric Pratt.
“It’s important we have a standard across the state,” he announced. And it’s best to keep those standards low.
There’s no telling if Pratt’s time bomb will eventually detonate. The DFL House is opposed. But the Legislature’s habit is to wait till the last minute to negotiate, then roll an assortment of these explosives into massive bills, which are often presented to members just prior to votes.
The upside is that most never have time to read what they’re voting on, saving them from enduring hundreds of pages of inartful prose. The downside is that Minnesota law is born from this senseless scrum.
So if you’re among the many Minnesotans barely getting by, know that Eric Pratt is doing his best to add to your burden.