House Passes Bill to Raise Minimum Wage to $15 After 14-Hours of Debate

After 14 hours of debate, members of the state House of Representatives passed a bill to incrementally increase the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023.

Lawmakers began the debate late Wednesday night and continued it into Thursday and finally voted around noon.

If it becomes law, Connecticut would become the seventh state in the country to pass a plan to phase in a $15 minimum wage, joining New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, California, New Jersey and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia.

“If our economy doesn’t work for everyone, then it doesn’t work. It’s that simple,” Governor Ned Lamont said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “I’m doing everything possible to engage the business community so they can grow here, relocate or stay and hire Connecticut residents who represent the top workforce in the country.”

During the day Wednesday, top Democrats in the Connecticut House of Representatives framed the issue as one that will stimulate job growth, and help lift thousands out of poverty.

Rep. Robyn Porter, (D – New Haven), one of the sponsors of the proposal said, “People will be spending more money because we are putting more disposable incomes into the pockets of the people that spend it.”

On Tuesday the Appropriations Committee advanced legislation increasing the current $10.10 an hour wage to $15 by 2022. Under an amendment passed Wednesday night, the schedule is pushed back. Minimum wage would raise to $11 on October 1, 2019, to $12 in 2020, $13 in 2021, $14 in 2022 and finally $15 in 2023.

Republicans have described the measure as a potential shock to small business owners around the state, who would be saddled with a new mandate.

Rep. Themis Klarides, (R – Derby), the top Republican in the House, warned that even more automation could expected in smaller retailers, even as fast food and grocery chains have been using the technology for at least the past decade in spots.

“Most of us order things online,” Klarides said. “You go into McDonald’s, you see automated machines where nobody takes your order anymore. This is moving in that direction and making businesses pay that much more money to people is going to make it worse.”

Industry associations have estimated that around 300,000 workers in Connecticut, possibly more, would see their wages increase as a result of the minimum wage going up. However, if passed the bill would exempt certain people from that new minimum wage, including tipped workers and also young people in summer jobs.

The bill would still need the approval of the Senate.

“I’m so pleased that the House has finally passed the minimum wage bill, and I look forward to the upcoming Senate debate where I will explain to my colleagues how this bill helps Connecticut families and our economy,” state Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury), is Senate Chair of the Labor Committee, said in a statement.

If it passes in the Senate, it would head to Governor Lamont for his signature. The governor has said he supports raising the minimum wage to $15.

“In order to grow, we need policies that protect our workforce and the small businesses who need them. Raising the minimum wage will help lift families out of poverty, combat persistent pay disparities between races and genders, and stimulate our economy,” Lamont said in a statement. “This compromise represents a fair, gradual increase that will improve the lives of working families in our state who struggle to pay for childcare, afford tuition, put food on the table, pay the mortgage, or cover the rent. I applaud the action taken by the House today and urge the Senate to swiftly approve as well so that I may proudly sign this into law.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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