April 18, 2018

Legislature moves minimum wage hike bill forward

HBJ File Photo
HBJ File Photo
Connecticut state Capitol in Hartford.

A major legislative committee on Tuesday narrowly passed legislation that would raise Connecticut's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.

House Bill 5388 would increase the minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 over the next three years. It would also tie future minimum wage hikes to the rate of inflation. The Appropriations Committee approved the legislation voting 27-24.

The bill, pledged during Malloy's final State of the State address, still needs approval from the House and Senate, in addition to the Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's signature before it becomes law.

Under the bill, the state's minimum wage would spike from $10.10 to $12 on Jan. 1, 2019; from $12 to $13.50 on Jan. 1, 2020; and from $13.50 to $15 on Jan. 1, 2021.

According to the Office of Early Childhood, the minimum wage hike would increase its costs by $1.6 million in 2019 and $4.4 million in 2020.

Meanwhile, the wage increase would raise contracted costs for state agencies.

The state Department of Administrative Services reported that approximately 147 contracts will be impacted by the new minimum wage, increasing its costs by an estimated $150,000 in 2019 and $425,000 in 2020.

Moreover, the state Department of Transportation has identified higher costs of $25,000 and $75,000 in 2019-20, respectively under the bill.

Dozens of entities provided written testimony regarding the proposed minimum wage hike, with advocates noting that families deserve more financial support and opponents questioning how businesses will maintain their workforces with severely increased overhead.

Scott Jackson, the commissioner of the Department of Labor, supported the bill saying that it provides a long-overdue wage increase for low-income workers. The wage increase also provides financial stability for families amid growing costs for child care.

In opposition, the Connecticut Restaurant Association, which represents over 600 eateries and affiliated businesses, urged the committee to reject the proposed wage increase because the state already provides one of the nation's highest minimum wages in the country at $10.10.

The association said requiring businesses to offer higher wages is a poor method to reduce poverty and forces restaurants to consider cutting jobs, staff hours and increase prices.

"These decisions end up hurting the very employees that wage increase are meant to help," they wrote.

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