Change in Minnesota's minimum wage could affect Wisconsin

Published On: May 08 2013 06:06:17 PM CDT   Updated On: May 08 2013 06:54:17 PM CDT
Minn./Wis. -

Late Wednesday afternoon the Minnesota senate passed a bill that would raise the states minimum wage from $6.15 to $7.50 an hour.

But would an increase attract more Wisconsinites to cross the border to find work?

“It's like a big family here, so we've all been together for a while,” said Darren Zymach, owner of King Street Kitchen in La Crosse.

Even the restaurant’s employees that have worked there for decades started out at minimum wage.

“With your work ethic, if it’s good, you make more than minimum,” said Zymach.

Wisconsin's minimum wage is currently at $7.25 an hour.

If Minnesota bumps its rate to $7.50 an hour, Zymach said, his employees probably wouldn't find the extra $0.25 an hour worth it to leave his business.

But Minnesota would continue to increase the rate to $9.50 an hour by the year 2015.

Zymach said if the bill passes, offering competitive wages might be tough.

“You'd probably have to raise prices because otherwise it affects the bottom line, and that bottom line's already tight the way it is, so wouldn't have a choice,” said Zymach.

Zymach also said the change may make it harder to find qualified applicants.

“There isn't that many people out there looking for jobs right now, so if they know they might make more across the river, they might go there first,” said Zymach.

Just across the river, Bauer's Market and Garden Center in La Crescent would gladly hire Wisconsinites.

“We've got quite a number of people working on the Wisconsin side of the river that are already employed here,” said Bruce Bauer, owner of Bauer’s Market and Garden Center.

But Bauer said the change could mean increased prices and maybe a cutback in staffing to make up the difference.

“Anytime wages go up, obviously that's another inherent cost of operations (and) overhead that we have to analyze and watch,” said Bauer.

He said it's a struggle between quantity and quality.

“We'd have to analyze it very closely though because there's a fine line,” said Bauer. “You want to have a nice, adequate amount of staff around to take care of people. That's the key to being in business.”

It's been about four years since Wisconsin raised its minimum wage.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he would support a bill that would set the state's minimum wage between $9 and $9.50 an hour.