HARTFORD — The March 26 vote by the state legislature that incrementally raises Connecticut’s minimum hourly wage up to $10.10 by 2017 could serve as a catalyst for other states, as well as the nation, to double their efforts to do the same.
“This legislation is about making sure that people working full-time and supporting families aren’t living in poverty,” stated Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a release. “The extra money that these folks earn will be put back into our economy and help our communities. I am proud that Connecticut is once again a leader on an issue of national importance.”
Malloy signed the bill into law the day after its legislative passage. The move means Connecticut leads all other states in the nation when it comes to highest mandated hourly minimum wage, at least theoretically.
Like Connecticut, a number of other states are considering hiking their minimum wages, a move that has received vocal and vigorous support from the Obama administration. Washington now has the highest state minimum wage, at $9.32 per hour.
The new Connecticut wage will be phased in over the next three years. It will rise to $9.15 on January 1, 2015; $9.60 on January 1, 2016, and $10.10 on January 1, 2017.
The minimum wage in Connecticut is now $8.70, a significant $1.45 above the current federal minimum wage. President Barack Obama seeks to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, and has solicited the support of Malloy and other Democratic governors to help achieve that goal. Likewise, Obama has enthusiastically supported Malloy in his efforts to raise the minimum wage in the Constitution State.
The increased wage was lauded by legislators who championed it.
“A low minimum wage forces the government to subsidize the cost of employment while privatizing the profits,” Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-11) of New Haven said in a statement. “As a result, the costs are shifted to government in the form of aid to low-wage workers. President Obama and Gov. Malloy are right; the minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living and full-time work should pay full-time wages.”
Jim Horan, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services, released a statement saying that the increase “will directly help 140,000 workers, many who are women with children, move out of poverty.” He added, “This higher wage means greater financial stability for families, reduced need for government safety-net programs, and higher earnings for students who are working to pay for college.
Horan went on to call Connecticut “a leading state in addressing poverty and promoting economic success through progressive policy change” because of the raised minimum wage and other legislative mandates such as paid sick days.
Some pundits have taken issue with raising the state’s minimum wage, however, theorizing that it would further restrict businesses struggling to recover from what is commonly referred to as “the great recession.”
Bill Villano, executive director of New Haven-based Workforce Alliance, doesn’t think the effect will be nearly as dire as some are predicting.
“There’s almost no employer I can think of paying less than $10 an hour anyway that we place people with,” says Villano. “So Connecticut, for the most part, is pretty much there.”
Career centers affiliated with Workforce Alliance place clients in entry to mid-level positions. It’s diverse placements include areas such as IT, advanced manufacturing and engineering.
Villano also notes that only a small percentage of jobs in the state pay the minimum wage. That significantly narrows the scope of the new legislation, he says.
“So I don’t think it’s going to have an impact,” Villano adds.