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One minimum wage bill dies in committee, while another lives on
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One minimum wage bill dies in committee, while another lives on

Sen. Mark Sweeney, D-Philipsburg

Sen. Mark Sweeney, D-Philipsburg

One in a pair of bills to raise the minimum wage in Montana working through the Legislature met its likely demise Tuesday.

The Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee voted 6-5 to table Senate Bill 187. Sen. Mark Sweeney, a Philipsburg Democrat, sponsored the measure, and argued the committee should pass it to at least generate a discussion on the issue on the full Senate floor.

But Republican Committee Chairman Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, of Great Falls, argued against its passage, saying that wages in Montana’s cities were already being pushed up by competition, and that such a policy could harm small businesses in more rural places like north-central Montana.

“That’s a backbreaking wage for a small business,” Fitzpatrick said, echoing the views of pro-business groups that argued against the bill in a hearing last week.

The bill would have raised Montana’s minimum wage from $8.75 an hour to $12 an hour over the course of three years.

A separate minimum wage bill, brought by Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, proposes increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. It would also strike language on the books allowing businesses with annual gross sales of $110,000 or less to pay a lower minimum wage.

House Bill 284 would cost the state’s general fund $1.2 million in 2022, rising to $1.6 million in 2023 and 2024, then $2.9 million by 2025, according to the fiscal analysis by the governor’s budget office. It has been assigned to the House Business and Labor Committee.

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