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HELENA—One day after hearing the bill, the House Business and Labor Committee on Tuesday tabled a bill to raise Montana’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in January 2018 and then apply an annual cost-of-living adjustment starting the next year.

The state’s current minimum wage is $8.15 an hour, with annual cost-of-living adjustments.

On a party-line 11-8 vote, the committee tabled House Bill 169, by Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, All Republicans on the committee voted to table the bill, while all Democrats opposed it.

“It’s disappointing that the committee tabled the bill,” Dunwell said. “People’s livelihoods and ability to support themselves and their families should not come down to partisan politics. I appreciate the time that both proponents and opponents invested in the issue.”

At the hearing, business representatives said if the bill passes, it could cause restaurants and store owners to raise their prices and possibly eliminate jobs in order to pay the higher wages.

Supporters of the bill called its passage critical to help Montana’s lowest wage workers earn more to support their families, pay for groceries, housing, utilities, car payments and fuel.

Dunwell said she has another bill this session calling to study a living wage in Montana during the interim between legislative sessions.

“It will bring all parties to the table to address the concerns raised by the restaurant owners and other opponents of HB169 and try to find a workable, sustainable solution that’s win-win for all parties and try to head off workforce shortage crisis,” she said.

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