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Lawmakers pursue elimination of pay-equity law

ST. PAUL — Minnesota House Democrats on Tuesday called on Republicans to drop an effort to repeal the state’s pay-equity law for women.

Democrats charge that getting rid of the Local Government Pay Equity Act would be a major step backward in ensuring that public employees are paid equally, regardless of their gender.

"In state government it has worked, and the fear is if we remove that, we will see the inequity come back," said Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester.

The proposal to repeal the equality act is part of a larger mandate-reduction bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa. He rejected arguments that scrapping the law would lead to wider pay disparities between men and women.

Drazkowski said that there is already a federal pay-equity act that addresses this issue and that Minnesota is one of only one or two states in the nation with its own pay-equity law. He said local governments are the ones who asked for this state law to be repealed.


"Overwhelmingly, local units of government believe this is an undue burden that does not provide added value to the workers or the taxpayers of Minnesota," Drazkowski said.

Democrats argue that the law is still needed. They cite a June report by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota that found white women earn 76 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Disparities are greater for women of color. The numbers are better for public employees; women earn 95 cents for each dollar made by men, Norton said.

Last year, the Office of Minnesota Management and Budget analyzed pay inequity information and worked with local governments, leading to an average increase of pay for women of $1.59 per hour. Democrats noted this proposal comes at a time when the state faces a $6.2 billion budget deficit.

"The only reason to remove this mandate when we have a deficit like this is to cut the pay of women and save money," said Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville.

Drazkowski argues that the law inflates salaries for all public employees. He said Wabasha County recently underwent a pay-equity review that called for salary increases for men and women. Men hold four of the five highest paid positions. They were all recommended for a salary increase. For instance, the city administrator position, held by a man, has a maximum salary of $89,767 per year. The pay equity analysis would require that maximum be increased to $100,996 over a four-year period.

"Is (this state law) addressing pay inequities? No. It’s increasing everybody’s salaries because it is unwieldy, it’s unable to be locally customized to their needs," Drazkowski said.

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