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Possible Minimum Wage Increase

January 19, 2002, 10:25 PM by Amanda Spicer

Imagine starting out at a job making $5.15 an hour. Some people don't have to imagine. But one Senator is looking to change that.

A plan to raise the minimum wage to $6.25 an hour is making its way through the South Dakota State Legislature. And it's getting mixed reviews from legislators and business owners.

Julie Packard has been stuffing bears and making memories for people for the last nine years. Packard owns "Bear With Us", a small business in Dell Rapids. She says she's not happy about the possibility of raising the minimum wage. "If we up the minimum wage, it'll put a burden on us and then it makes the people that we hire have the attitude 'we deserve this' and I don't feel that's what it should be like."

Packard says she wants to pay someone what they deserve, even if it's higher than the current minimum wage. She doesn't want to be told by the government how much to give employees. She says, "I want to set the price."

State Senator Gil Koetzle of Sioux Falls has introduced legislation that would bump South Dakota's minimum wage up by $1.10.

Although Packard says the boost might hurt her business, Koetzle says in actuality it may help it.

He says, "I can't think of a kid that if I don't give them another dollar an hour they won't go spend it all. It stimulates the economy and a conservative economist will tell you that money turns over a minimum of seven times in a community."

Koetzle says our state shouldn't lag behind the rest of the states in wages. He says when it comes to paying workers, South Dakota should be ahead of the curve. "Why can't we go ahead and do something before the federal government tells us that we ought to do it. It helps our citizens. It helps our economy."

If the boost were to pass legislation it would come in a three step increase. The first would be raising the wage to $5.50 on October 1st. The second would be January 1st, 2003 with a boost to $5.85, and the last increase would be in April 2003 uping the minimum wage to $6.25.

Koetzle says the increase would benefit high school and college students and single parents the most.

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