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Minimum-Wage Bill Survives GOP Attempt To Derail It; On To House

Measure Calls For 50-Cent Hike In Each Of Next 2 Years

By DANIELA ALTIMARI

April 13, 2012

HARTFORD A bill to raise the state's minimum wage won the approval of a key legislative committee Friday afternoon, surviving Republican efforts to amend it and a parliamentary maneuver that aimed to kill it.

The measure cleared the appropriations committee on a 29-20 vote and is on its way to the House of Representatives.

The measure would increase the minimum wage by 50 cents in each of the next two years. If approved, the hourly wage would rise from the current $8.25 to $8.75 on Jan. 1, 2013, and to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2014. After that, the rate would be tied to the Consumer Price Index.

"This is a good bill,'' said Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia. "It doesn't do an awful lot but it does a little something. And the people of this state deserve a little something."

Prague and other supporters say the increase will stimulate the economy, because low-wage workers generally spend their raises instead of socking them away in the bank.

"This is the right time to increase the minimum wage,'' Prague said. "It's good for businesses ... people will have a few more dollars to spend.''

Republican Sen. Len Suzio said he applauds the proposal's intent but predicted it would burden already struggling small businesses and reinforce the state's reputation as a place that is hostile to business, he said.

It is, Suzio added, "another way of making business a little more difficult and a little more expensive in Connecticut ... we might actually be doing a lot more harm than any good at all, especially to those who do make minimum wage."

Another Republican, Sen. Jason Welch, proposed an amendment that would exclude cities and towns from the requirement, which he said is an unfunded mandate that would cause great hardship to cash-strapped municipalities. The proposal was shot down.

Sen. Rob Kane, a Republican from Watertown, offered an amendment that would exempt seasonal employees and workers aged 16 to 22 from the proposed increase. Kane, the ranking member of the committee, said his proposal would provide a powerful incentive for employers to hire younger workers, who have a significantly higher unemployment rate than the generally population.

"These individuals don't need a higher wage,'' Kane said, "they need jobs."

But Democrats who back the minimum wage increase say younger workers shouldn't be exempt from the increase.

"A lot of 22-year-olds are head of household,'' saidMarie Kirkley-Bey, D-Hartford. "They need to make the $9 an hour."

Kane's amendment failed, as did an earlier Republican effort to derail the bill through a parliamentary tactic.

The measure has a high-profile champion in House Speaker Chris Donovan, but Gov.Dannel P. Malloy's comments have been tempered.

"The governor is a long-time supporter of the minimum wage,'' his spokesman, Andrew Doba, said in an email.

"He also signed two bills last year Paid Sick Leave and the state's first Earned Income Tax Credit that target the same population a minimum wage increase would target," Doba wrote. "Given the current business climate, the governor wants to ensure that any new legislation won't harm our growing recovery. ... He looks forward to watching the debate on this issue as it proceeds through the legislature."

Similar efforts to raise the minimum wage are underway in New York and New Jersey.

Currently, only the state of Washington has a minimum wage higher than $9; at $9.04. Oregon and Vermont have higher minimum wages than Connecticut. The federal standard is $7.25 an hour.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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