North Dakota lawmaker says minimum wage hike unlikely


By Rob Port | North Dakota Watchdog

FARGO, N.D. — Thanks to a booming energy industry and high crop prices North Dakota has seen record setting income growth, and that may be holding back efforts to raise the minimum wage.

MINIMUM WAGE: Rep. Steve Zaiser, D-Fargo, says it’s unlikely the minimum wage issue will be taken up in North Dakota’s next Legislative session now that he’s retiring.

Rep. Steve Zaiser, D-Fargo, introduced a bill in the Legislature last year to create a state minimum wage for North Dakota and raise it every year based on a consumer price survey conducted by North Dakota State University. The legislation, HB1414, got a “do not pass” recommendation from the Industry, Business and Labor Committee and was defeated 24-70 in a vote of the full state House.

Zaiser said he wasn’t surprised. ”It’s a pretty one-sided issue. It almost failed on a party line vote.”

He said most North Dakota legislators oppose the minimum wage because they “think that it’s bad for wages, it’s bad for jobs, that people get laid off,” but Zaiser doesn’t agree.

“I think that’s wrong,” he said. “We need it badly for those people who aren’t doing well. There’s a lot of people who aren’t doing well.”

Zaiser admitted that the strong economic growth in the state, driven by a booming state oil industry and strong crop prices, makes the case for the minimum wage harder, but said it’s still an important policy.

“People see that we’re doing OK,” he said. “But everybody’s not doing OK.”

President Barack Obama will reportedly issue an executive order mandating that all federal contractors pay a $10.10 per hour minimum wage. Zaiser, who is not running for re-election this year, said he supports the move, but when asked if he thought another legislator would introduce a minimum wage bill during the 2015 Legislative session he said, “sadly, no.”

“I’m a big proponent,” he said of the issue. “I’ve introduced it several times now. We need it badly for those people who aren’t doing well.”

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, North Dakota led the nation in personal income growth in the fourth quarter of 2012 at 1.4 percent, and that growth has remained strong with a 1.12 percent growth rate through the second quarter of 2013, the most recent period for which the BEA has data available.

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