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Iron Range legislator Jason Metsa spends week living on minimum wage budget

As the Legislature considers a bill that would raise the minimum wage in Minnesota, state Rep. Jason Metsa, a DFLer from Virginia, is trying to see, firsthand, what it’s like to live on the current minimum: $7.25 an hour.

It’s early yet, but he’s tweeting about it at @jasonmetsa.

Monday, the first day, he says he spent $2 on coffee and $5 on a dinner buffet.

The first-term legislator, who is 32 and single, is spending the week taking the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge.

He calculated his food budget to be about $5 a day. He projected his other monthly costs on the minimum wage budget to be:

  • Housing $359
  • Taxes  $178
  • Healthcare $70
  • Transportation $278
  • Household and utilities $116

The bill under consideration would raise the state’s hourly minimum wage to $9.95.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/09/2013 - 03:51 pm.


    My hat’s off to the guy on this one. Can we get regular updates here on how he’s doing? I’m an old fart and don’t do all this tweety bird stuff.

    Five bucks a day for food won’t get you much to eat, not to mention that the wage doesn’t allow the employee much leeway for meds should he get sick, car repairs, or even cleaning supplies for the apartment. And I assume housing is a heck of a lot cheaper up in Virginia because you can’t get a hole in the wall in the Cities for $359 a month, plus damage deposit, first month’s rent, and application fee.

    And the budget assumes Jason is working 40 hours per week, which most minimum wage jobs do not provide.

    If people want to read more about what it’s like to work at that end of the social/economic scale, check out the book “Nickle & Dimed.” It’s about a lady who takes three minimum wage jobs around the country (including Walmart in Minnesota) to see if she can earn enough to make next month’s rent. It’s quite the journey of what it’s like to be the working poor in today’s society.

  2. Submitted by Kim Millman on 04/10/2013 - 08:31 am.

    Bravo Rep. Metsa!

    It is wonderful to see a legislator doing what it takes to investigate and understand those who work hard 40 or 50 hours a week and still find themselves short of meeting their most basic needs. It would be nice if more legislators followed Metsa’s lead and demonstrated his interest in public policy and its effect on all of us.

    As hard as this is for a single person, there are way too many people working hard work trying to support a family on morally repugnant low wages. The opposition to ensuring a most basic living wage is baffling. It really is a pay me now or pay me later proposition. We are not a third world country and we shouldn’t act like one by keeping minimum wages low. The lower the wage, the lower the standard of living and the higher the tax burden is for all. The lower the wage, the faster the race to the bottom. Minnesota has always been better than that.

    More importantly, the people who are forced to spend 100% of their time in survival mode have no time to better themselves with education or skills development. This is not a partisan issue. Wellstone’s pragmatic words sum it up; “We all do better when we all do better.” Even Ronald Reagan understood that a “rising tide will lift all boats.”

    Thanks Again Rep. Metsa.

  3. Submitted by Eileen Grundstrom on 04/10/2013 - 08:33 am.

    Jason can do this for a week and I admire him for that. Just think about people who are working for minimum wage with little hope of moving into a better paying job or getting a raise.

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