SIOUX FALLS, SD -
South Dakota Democrats want to raise the minimum wage.
Party officials used the Labor Day holiday to kickoff a petition drive to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour.
It's an effort Democrats tried to push in the 2012 legislative session but the legislation never even made it out of its first committee hearing. Now they're taking the issue to South Dakota voters.
"Raising the minimum wage means South Dakota values hard work," South Dakota Democratic Party Interim Executive Director Zach Crago said during a Labor Day picnic at Elmwood Park in Sioux Falls.
Over the next two months the party hopes to gather more than 16,000 signatures to raise the state minimum wage by $1.25 an hour with an annual cost of living increase every year after that.
"Another $1.25 an hour is $2,600 a year for someone working full time every week throughout the entire year. That makes a huge difference for people, for working people who are just trying to put food on their table back home," Crago said.
Democrats say raising the minimum wage would not only help out those workers who would see a boost in their paychecks but it could also help out the entire South Dakota economy.
But at Thunder Road Family Park owner and Republican State Senator Al Novstrup doesn't think the extra money will have that much of an impact.
"The plus is some wages are going up but people are going to have to understand there are prices going up to match those wages, so it's not free. It doesn't come from nowhere. It actually comes from some place. There has to be a result of that," Novstrup said.
About five percent of South Dakota hourly workers make the minimum wage. Novstrup says he pays his employees more than the mandatory minimum.
"I think the marketplace should make decisions and the employer and employee should make a decision as to what the wage is," Novstrup said.
But Democrats say giving the lowest paid workers a raise will increase wages for about 18 percent of South Dakotans who make between $7.25 and $8.50 an hour right now.
"When more people earn more money they spend that on the things their families need every day. That will help new businesses, that will help grow our economy, and that's how you build an economy that works for everyone," Crago said.
The last time the minimum wage was raised was four years ago.
If Democrats gather enough signatures the issue will be put on the November 2014 ballot.
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