Wages, money, dollars

BILLINGS, Mont. - State lawmakers met today to discuss if they want to pass HB 345.

The proposal would raise Montana's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Currently, $8.50 is the minimum wage in Montana

HB 345 would raise the state minimum wage for employees to $15 an hour over a two year course.

The increase would start July 1, 2019 to $12 then $15  in July 2020.

Mary Ann Dunwell is a sponsor of the bill and spoke in front of the committee.

Dunwell said raising living wages would raise employee morale and reduce turnover rates.

"Work is dignified and in Montana, I'm sure you know,we have a good work ethic. Montanans work hard and put pride in their work. We want everybody to enjoy the quality of life that Montana offers," said Dunwell.

"Many workers are struggling financially because even though they work hard, they don't earn enough to pay for the basic necessities."

Brad Griffin who represents the Montana Retail and Restaurant Association in Billings said most minimum wage employees are working in restaurants and raising minimum wage would eliminate tip income potential.

"I don't think you're going to see similar wages in Lewistown, Libby or smaller communities. We just don't have the economic engine to push these kind of wages," said Griffin. "Anytime you raise the minimum wage, it's basically mandated inflation. The money has to come from somewhere and so businesses are left with no other choice but to raise prices.

Montana's last minimum wage increase was by 20 cents just last month.

KULR-8 Reporter/Weather Forecaster

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