The state's house of representatives voted last week to increase Connecticut's minimum hourly wage by fifty cents over two years. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the measure is now in the hands of the senate.
Democratic House Speaker Chris Donovan had wanted much more -- taking the $8.25 minimum wage up to well over nine dollars. But in the end, he compromised and settled on a 25 cent hike in each of the next two years. That's about a three percent annual raise.
Appearing on WNPR's Where We Live, advocates for the pay raise say it will benefit the state's lowest paid workers. Kennard Ray is the political director for Connecticut Working Families. He says he's sensitive to the concerns of business owners.
"But I'm more sensitive to workers who can't provide for their families, workers who are struggling with homelessness. I'm more sensitive to the caller who can't find a job other than a minimum wage job with a college degree."
Kia Morrell represents CBIA -- the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. She says raising the minimum wage would be another stress on the state's employers.
"If we don't control labor costs while we are still so fragile, we are going to make it much more difficult to grow and create the jobs we need to get out of the economic recession fully."
But at least one person says all of the disagreement is over a fairly minor change. Dan Haar is a Hartford Courant columnist and its business editor.
"Speaker Donovan was attempting, as he has attempted fro the last 15 years, to raise the living standards of the working poor in measurable, real way. That's not what this bill does. This bill maintains the status quo."
Haar says that's because the increases on the table are small -- and they just raise the minimum wage at roughly the same level as inflation.
"And so I frankly don't see what the big deal is either way. I think the senate should just stop the charade, vote for the status quo, and someday in the future, when times are better, consider actually raising the standards of the working poor."