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Hodges supports higher Minneapolis minimum wage -- if it protects tipped employees

Minnesota is one of just seven states without a tip credit.

Minnesota is one of just seven states without a tip credit. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Minneapolis is going to pass a citywide minimum wage increase in 2017.

Don't believe it? Wanna bet? If so, you'd be going up against someone who's got a bit of insider knowledge: Mayor Betsy Hodges.

In a statement issued Monday night, Hodges said it's "clear" the city will pass some sort of minimum wage increase in the near future.

Reasons are obvious: The city's economic climate is healthier than almost any other metro area in the Untied States; its politics are more progressive than the state's as a whole; wealth disparity is a growing crisis. Wait, one more: Hodges and all of her city council colleagues are up for reelection in 2017

Hodges had previously backed a higher minimum wage in this city and others, one that wouldn't make Minneapolis an outlier compared to its Twin Cities neighbors. To that end, Hodges disclosed Monday she'd been working with numerous local legislators and city officials to craft a state law for a "regional minimum wage." 

But citing "the dramatically changed state and national political landscape" -- a reference to Republican majorities in Congress and the Minnesota Legislature -- Hodges is throwing her support behind a "responsible, sustainable" minimum wage.

With one caveat: The city's new minimum can't include a carve-out exempting tipped workers, a class of employees largely made up by the city's restaurant servers. 

"As we move forward in Minneapolis," Hodges says, "the wage we pass must not hold our tipped workers back -- most of whom are women -- or set a new, harmful precedent that will hurt tipped workers statewide."

Noting that Minnesota is just one of seven states that don't impose a so-called "tip credit" on workers, Hodges argues a city ordinance that excluded servers could be seized as a precedent by people who've long sought to get rid of it statewide.

"If Minneapolis were to move the clock backwards on fair wages for all," Hodges' statement says, "Republicans who now control the Minnesota Legislature would surely follow suit, with negative consequences for our state as a whole."

Liberal advocates have pushed to put the city on path toward a $15 minimum, a mark that would match the levels of Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, among other big cities. When the city council balked at raising the wage outright, organizers forced the wage increase onto the ballot; the Minnesota Supreme Court later found this method improper, and removed it.

Council members wanted to wait for the results of an economic impact study commissioned by a voter earlier this year. When those results came in, economists said the effect on the city economy would be a net positive, despite the protestations of some that the new minimum might lead to vastly inflated prices on ice cream cones. (Really.)

If the battle to pass a higher minimum has been won, the war over what kind has just begun. Several of the city council members who will consider the wage proposal already have Democratic primary opponents; most often, the challenge is coming from their left flank, as activists seek to make an already progressive council even more so.

Hodges' own plight could depend on how willing her fellow members are to work with her: Aside from Nekima Levy-Pounds, the Black Lives Matter activist who has announced her candidacy, it's rumored that council members Alondra Cano and Jacob Frey are eyeing a challenge to the city's first-term mayor.