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Council approves minimum wage increase

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La Crosse's minimum wage workers will get a 55-cent per hour raise Dec. 1 and another 80-cent raise Dec. 1, 2006, under action taken Thursday by the La Crosse Common Council.

Supporters let out a howl of joy as they left city hall after the 11-4 vote, which makes

La Crosse the third Wisconsin city to increase its minimum wage.

"Hopefully this will be a sign to our state legislators that this is something Wisconsinites would like to happen," said Jeremy Jansen, spokesperson for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Progressives, which had about 20 supporters at the meeting.

The council's action will raise the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $5.70 per hour as of Dec. 1, and $6.50 per hour as of Dec. 1, 2006.

Several Wisconsin cities are considering local increases to the minimum wage because the state Legislature has failed to act on a proposal by the Wisconsin Minimum Wage Advisory Commission.

The state Senate on Wed-nesday passed a bill 19-14 along party lines - Republicans for it, Democrats against - that would wipe out increases passed by individual municipalities by barring them from going beyond the $5.15 per hour statewide wage.

But Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, said he would veto the bill unless he is assured lawmakers will raise the statewide minimum wage.

A bill that corresponds to the Senate-approved measure has yet to start circulating in the Assembly, said a spokesperson for state Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.

Before the meeting, about 30 supporters sat on the wall outside the entrance to city hall with signs that declared "La Crosse needs $6.50" and "Support the people."

Council member Tom Sweeney attempted to add an amendment that any state increase would supercede the local increase if the Legislature acts, but it failed.

Voting for the increase were Andrea Richmond, Todd Olson, Andy Monfre, Bill Harnden, John Satory, Mark Johnsrud, Richard Becker, Audrey Kader, Bernie Maney, Marilyn Wigdahl and Larry Lebiecki.

Voting against it were Doug Farmer, Bruce Ranis, Sweeney and Joe Ledvina.

Jon Olson had an excused absence, while Mark Meyer, though at the meeting, was out of the council chamber during the vote.

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