Norton is one of three Democrats who are co-sponsoring a bill that would allow employers to pay tipped workers $8 per hour as long as they make at least $12 per hour in tips. The Minnesota House is expected to vote on the bill later today.
Last year, the then-DFL controlled Legislature approved raising the state's minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2016. Norton backed raising the minimum wage but said she has long supported the idea of a tip credit and tried to win support among fellow Democrats for the idea.
"We just couldn't get anybody to take us seriously last time. We thought we could, we tried, but we were unsuccessful," she said.
Other Democrats who have signed onto the bill are Rep. Paul Rosenthal, of Edina, and Rep. Ben Lien, of Moorhead.
Norton said she has heard from local restaurant owners who support raising the minimum wage but are concerned about paying tipped employees the full minimum wage amount when workers in the back of the restaurant, including chefs and dishwashers, don't get any tips.
One of the local owners who supports the tip credit legislation is Canadian Honker owner Joe Powers. He said the minimum wage increase comes at a tough time for restaurants, which are already dealing with increased costs related to health care and soaring food prices. He said the minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage and that tipped employees in the state make an average of $19 per hour.
"If you are good at your job, you'll have no problem easily making more than anyone else in the building," Powers said.
The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce has also made passing a tip credit one of its legislative priorities.
Opponents of a tip credit say the measure would hurt workers.
"We should be building on the word of the minimum wage passed in 2014 by expanding sick and family leave, requiring more predictable work schedules, and creating higher-quality jobs. Passing bills to freeze the wages of waitresses and waiters will not make our economy stronger," said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.
Even if the tip credit bill passes the House, it faces long odds in becoming law. DFL Senate leaders have said they have no plans to take up the issue and Gov. Mark Dayton has said he's not interested in changing the minimum wage law.