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Bill would raise minimum wage in North Dakota to $9.25 an hour

The North Dakota State Capitol stands over the mall July 14, 2016, in Bismarck. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 2
State Rep. Marvin Nelson of Rolla, N.D. photo by Eric Hylden/Forum News Service2 / 2

BISMARCK — A pair of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation Monday, Jan. 9 to raise North Dakota's minimum wage in an effort to boost earnings for the state's low-income residents, but the head of the state's most prominent business group predicted the bill won't get far.

Rep. Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla, wants to bump the state's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.25 an hour by the beginning of 2018. The legislation also directs the Labor Commissioner to adjust the wage to account for cost of living increases on Jan. 1, 2019, and every year after.

The legislation would prevent the Labor Commissioner from decreasing the minimum wage.

Nelson, the Democratic candidate for governor in last year's election, said the legislation would have more effects in the North Dakota's rural areas. He said many people are "running really hard" by often working more than one job but still failing to keep up.

"We're a state where rent is relatively high relative to wages," Nelson said. The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Mary Schneider, D-Fargo.

Andy Peterson, president and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, said he doesn't think the bill "would have a great chance of passing," given the Legislature's makeup. Republicans currently hold supermajorities in both chambers.

Peterson argued for more skills training to help workers rather than mandating employers pay a minimum wage. He warned raising the wage could encourage employers to look at automation.

"The better approach in our mind is to instill skills in your workers so that they can find better-paying jobs when they're ready to move on," Peterson said.

North Dakota's $7.25 minimum wage mirrors the federal standard, but a number of states and municipalities have seen efforts to raise pay in recent years. All of North Dakota's neighboring states have a minimum wage that's higher than the federal mandate, the highest being $9.50 an hour for large employers in Minnesota, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

North Dakota's minimum wage went to $7.25 an hour in July 2009, according to state law.

House Bill 1263 was referred to the House Industry Business and Labor Committee but a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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