ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Workers in the state’s second-largest city could take home bigger paychecks someday.

St. Paul leaders are studying whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

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The first public meeting was underway Thursday evening. Earlier in the day, a debate was held at the University of St. Thomas.

The debate was organized by the Citizens League, a St. Paul nonprofit. At the debate, there were people speaking for and against the minimum wage proposal.

Samuel Callahan, who works at MacDonald’s and Taco Bell, says the increase in wages would be life changing for him.

“It would mean a whole lot to me right now,” he said. “I work two jobs to support my daughter.”

But Oscar Murcia, the owner of El Guanaco Bakery on East 7th Street, says he worries about having to pass on the increased labor costs to customers.

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“It’s going to be more money, the customer is going to pay everything,” he said.

Sam Peterson, the owner of Kyatchi Japanese restaurants, says he is already paying his non-tipped workers $15 an hour.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Pay people $15 an hour, pay people a living wage.”

The city is asking for the public’s input and is actively considering exceptions to help smaller businesses.

“This is definitely a work in progress,” said Angelica Klebsch, the police director of the Citizens League. “The city is being very particular about how it writes this ordinance so there aren’t as many unintended consequences as other cities might have seen.”

The public in St. Paul gets three more chances to weigh in this summer.

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Minneapolis is already phasing in a $15-an-hour minimum wage over the next five years.

Esme Murphy