Rep. Frank Hornstein, D-Minneapolis, is one of five House DFLers taking part in the "minimum wage challenge." So for a week, he'll be working with the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour (or $290 a week before taxes) to eat and get himself around.
"For me, it's an opportunity to further strengthen my deep commitment to this legislation by putting myself, to some extent, in the position of people who have to deal with it everyday," Hornstein told us.
Hornstein started his challenge on Monday and said he's already had to make compromises.
"I figured out with the budget I was given that I could have $2 more for food if I take transit instead of drive to the Capitol," Hornstein said, adding that he did his grocery shopping on Monday at his preferred store, the Linden Hills Co-op. "These are the choices people make everyday."
Beyond eating and getting around on the cheap, Hornstein and the other four legislators participating in the challenge -- Rep. Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, Rep. Karen Clark, D-Minneapolis, Rep. Jason Metsa, D-Virginia, and Rep. Shannon Savick, D-Wells -- will also spend some time this week looking for housing with an extremely meager budget of $300-400 a month to work with.
"I anticipate finding very limited choices," Hornstein said, which prompted us to ask him if he's considered looking for a multi-bedroom unit with his colleagues.
"That's an intriguing idea, but with Jason living up on the Iron Range and Shannon on the other side of the state, it'd be hard," he replied. "But we're just looking. That's the point."
Last legislative session, bills raising the minimum wage from $6.15 passed the House and Senate. But the House wanted to raise the floor much higher than the Senate ($9.50 to $7.75, respectively), and DFL leaders never came to an agreement.
Hornstein said that while he'd ideally like to enact a minimum wage increase that goes above $9.50, he'll take what he can get.
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"Aaron, I don't believe $9.50 is a living wage by any stretch of the imagination," Hornstein told us. "That's closer to $15, but it's still a step forward and I hope what ends up happening is that the governor will sign a $9.50 bill."
Polling released this week indicates 42 percent of Minnesotans favor increasing the minimum wage to $9.50, while 37 percent would prefer a lesser increase.
Hornstein said he plans to wrap up his minimum wage challenge next Monday, just in time for the start of the legislative session. He said he hopes a $9.50 minimum wage increase will be approved by both the House and the Senate within the first couple weeks of session.
In the meantime, don't expect to see Hornstein driving around very much, or at the movie theater at all.
Asked how he plans to entertain himself while living on $7.50 an hour, Hornstein said "I'm not planning to do any of that this week."
"It will totally bust my budget," he added.