St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Hundreds of people rallied lawmakers in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday to act quickly on increasing the state's minimum wage.
"We're here today because of of a shared principal; that no one should have to work full-time and live in poverty," said Peggy Flanagan, the co-chair of Raise the Wage.
Advocates say raising the minimum wage to at least $9.50 an hour
would mean better wages for 357,000 Minnesotans
"...especially women, people of color, young adults and improve the well being of 137,000 children," Flanagan said.
The state's current minimum wage is far below the federal standard, at $6.15 an hour.
The push has support from top lawmakers.
"It's the right thing to do. It's also the right thing to do for our economy. Put money in the pocketbooks of working Minnesotans. It's going to go back in the economy and it's actually going to grow jobs and make this place a stronger place for everybody," said Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-House Speaker).
While the House is pushing for the highest increase, the Senate's plan is less aggressive. They're looking at an increase to $7.75 an hour.
Grandma's President, Brian Daugherty is hoping lawmakers will approve of the Minnesota Restaurant Association's two-tier proposal.
Daugherty said a wage increase to $9.50 an hour could have a major ripple effect on his business.
"An increase that large will mean reducing our staff levels, reducing our hiring probably replacing some people by new technology such as iPads and there is no doubt that we would find ourselves in need of raising prices much more than we normally would," Daugherty said.
Despite concerns, lawmakers aren't looking back. At this point they say there's no doubt there will changes.
"This is top priority for MN democrats this year, to raise the wage, and get the work done quickly," said Rep. Thissen.
Supporters say they'll keep speaking up until the hike is approved.
Governor Mark Dayton has said he supports a minimum wage increase.