Fargo rep proposes more aggressive wage bill
A Fargo legislator is promoting a minimum wage bill he says is more progressive and aggressive than one submitted by his fellow Democrats last week. Rep. Steve Zaiser plans to introduce legislation that would increase the state's minimum wage to ...
A Fargo legislator is promoting a minimum wage bill he says is more progressive and aggressive than one submitted by his fellow Democrats last week.
Rep. Steve Zaiser plans to introduce legislation that would increase the state's minimum wage to $7.25 per hour by Aug. 1.
In addition, the minimum wage would be annually adjusted for inflation - using the consumer price index - starting in January 2009.
The plan would prevent "poor underclass folks from suffering for years," Zaiser said.
The state's current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is the same as the federal standard, which has not changed since 1997.
The consumer price index is determined in September and would give employers time to make budget adjustments by January, Zaiser said.
The increased wages would also be more attractive for bringing workers and better-paying businesses to the state, he said.
Fargo Democrats Sen. Tim Mathern and Rep. Jasper Schneider submitted their own bill last week to increase the state's minimum wage.
Their plan in Senate Bill 2122 is to raise the state's minimum wage by 70 cents per year for the next three years. Under the plan, the minimum wage would increase to $5.85 by Aug. 1, to $6.55 by June 1, 2008, and to $7.25 by June 1, 2009.
Zaiser said his bill is not meant to be competitive or a race against Schneider, who also represents District 21.
Zaiser said he's been a supporter of new minimum wage legislation in North Dakota for several years.
He created a bill during the 2005 session addressing the issue, but withdrew it out of respect for Rep. Elwood Thorpe, D-Minot, who also submitted a minimum wage bill. The bill failed.
Zaiser said he talked with Schneider last fall about his plan to introduce a bill this session.
"We thought it would be a nice idea to basically provide a menu or an options menu for people to look at in terms of, 'Where do North Dakotans want to go?' " Zaiser said.
Schneider said he isn't surprised about Zaiser's plans to submit a bill.
"I'm happy about it. I think it will help encourage a healthy debate on an issue that will directly put money into the pockets of the people of North Dakota who need it the most," Schneider said.
"Whether it's the Mathern-Schneider bill or Rep. Zaiser's bill, it's a win-win for the working families in North Dakota."
The federal minimum wage may also change in the next few months.
President Bush has said he supports increasing the federal minimum wage to $7.25 over a two-year period. He wants the wage increase to be paired with targeted tax and regulatory relief for small businesses.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Teri Finneman at (701) 241-5560