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Connecticut Heeds Presidential Call To Increase Minimum Wage

by Hugh McQuaid | Mar 26, 2014 3:09pm
(38) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor

Hugh McQuaid Photo

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey talks with, Mark Ojakian, the governor’s chief of staff as the House debates minimum wage

(Updated 7 p.m.) Democrats in both legislative chambers voted to raise Connecticut’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017 after back-to-back debates Wednesday, sending the bill to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who plans to sign it Thursday.

State Democrats have made the bill’s passage a top priority during this election year session. It mirrors a federal policy called for by President Barack Obama, who visited Connecticut earlier this month in support of the legislation.

“I hope Members of Congress, governors, state legislators and business leaders across our country will follow Connecticut’s lead to help ensure that no American who works full time has to raise a family in poverty, and that every American who works hard has the chance to get ahead,” Obama said in an emailed statement shortly after passage of the bill.

Currently, Connecticut’s minimum wage is $8.70 an hour. The legislation will boost that to $9.15 on January 1, 2015; to $9.60 on January 1, 2016; and finally to $10.10 on January 1, 2017.

Senators approved the measure in a 21-14 vote after more than three hours of debate. Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury broke with her caucus and joined Republicans in voting against the hike. Lawmakers in the House gave final passage to bill hours later in an 87-54 vote, with four Democrats joining Republicans in opposing it.

After the vote, Malloy announced plans to sign the bill into law during a Thursday ceremony at Café Beauregard, a New Britain restaurant where he and other New England governors ate lunch with Obama when the president visited on March 5. He said the bill’s passage makes Connecticut a national leader on the issue.

“Increasing the minimum wage is not just good for workers, it’s also good for business,” Malloy said. “This modest increase will give working families a boost, and it will contribute to our economy by getting just a little more money into the pockets of people who will spend it in their communities.”

Proponents in the legislature also used the word “modest” in describing the increase, which puts Connecticut’s wage among the highest in the country. Supporters pushed back against the perception that most minimum wage workers are teenagers in part-time jobs.

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Sen. President Don Williams shakes hands with Labor Chair Sen. Gary Holder Winfield following vote

“This bill is a modest step forward made on behalf of those who have the least, working their hardest to provide for themselves and their families. It’s the least we can do to give them a hand up,” Senate President Donald Williams said.

The bill is also strong campaign issue for Democrats. A poll released this month by Quinnipiac University suggests widespread (71 percent) support for increasing the minimum wage among Connecticut voters.

Nearly all Democratic lawmakers voted in favor of the bill. Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party quickly released a statement criticizing Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Fairfield Republican and gubernatorial candidate, for opposing the bill.

Hartley, a Waterbury Democrat who also opposed an increase in the wage passed last year, expressed concerns that it would suppress employment opportunities in Waterbury, especially for young people.

“I don’t have jobs in my community to raise the minimum wage,” she said. “. . . As I speak to you this afternoon, my unemployment rate right now is just below 13 percent in my city.”

Republicans in both chambers opposed the legislation over concerns that it will hurt the state’s businesses and economy at a time when Connecticut residents are still struggling to find jobs.

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said the legislature continues to send the state’s businesses mixed messages. He pointed to a vote last year to increase the minimum wage over two years.

“Folks we just did this a year ago. Did we get it wrong a year ago? Did we blow it?” he said.

Hugh McQuaid Photo Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, called it one more damaging policy in a long line of laws from the state.

“We have over the course of 50 or 60 years, destroyed a great economy in the state of Connecticut. I don’t say that this bill in and of itself is . . . going to have any worse effect than many other similar errors we have made, but I think it is yet another in a long line,” he said. “I will oppose it and regret the further decay of the state economy.”

During the debate Democrats easily struck down a number of proposed changes by Republicans. One unsuccessful change would have prevented the need for future minimum wage debates by linking the wage to the consumer price index. Another defeated amendment would adjusted tip credit rates for wait staff so restaurants would not be required to increase their wages.

In a statement after the vote, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Connecticut had set an example for Congress to follow.

“Today was about supporting the thousands of struggling working families in our state, and adding hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy,” he said.

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(38) Comments

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | March 26, 2014  3:51pm

Hartley votes with the Republicans again.  Waterbury can do better.

posted by: Joebigjoe | March 26, 2014  4:38pm

Hartley voted for the gun bill but she at least was serious and not a raving lunatic like Ed Meyer who is chickening out…I mean retiring.

In this case she is right. They don’t have the jobs in her district and this won’t create more and will probably reduce them a bit. Again I think she took it seriously and whether one agrees with her or not on issues, at least she isnt a dope like Nancy Pelosi who needs to pass bills just to find out what’s in them.

posted by: SocialButterfly | March 26, 2014  6:52pm

Pres. Obama sold Gov. Malloy on his $10.10 minimum wage - at a cost of jobs in the state - and our governor delivered. More Democratic loss of prosperity.

posted by: art vandelay | March 26, 2014  7:35pm

art vandelay

@Michael Brown,
I beg to differ. Hartley is the only Democrat in the Senate with an ounce of brains. Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, New London & New Britain can do MUCH better.

posted by: dano860 | March 26, 2014  7:45pm

Great, they did it…LET THE EXPERIMENT BEGIN! I hope somebody is keeping score.
There never was a question as to which way it was going, was there?
Now Dannel’s that much closer to the big leagues.

posted by: robn | March 26, 2014  8:28pm

That’s a 16% hike over 4 years. Avg inflation over a 5 year period during the last decade was about 13%. Not speaking for or against…just sayin.

posted by: PWS2003 | March 26, 2014  8:41pm

BigJoe,
Ed Meyers may be many things but a chick he is not. He looked at his hand and saw a loser. Without a big plurality from Branford his chances were zero. Unk DaRos and his brain trust have lost Branford for the Democrats for many years to come, so Sen. Meyers just folded his hand and moved on. Part of understanding politics is understanding numbers and any successful politician studies them to learn just like any card player. Besides the top of the ticket is also a loser, so fold and move on.

posted by: Commuter | March 26, 2014  9:23pm

If the Republicans who are or wannabe in Hartford are any indication, Republicans understand little to nothing about economics and business.

Wage rates are do not determine employment levels. They are, at most, a marginal factor, highly correlated with a narrow set of business types. Further, even when negative effects are initially experienced, they are negated in a short period of time.

This is the sort of thing that thinking market-oriented people should be supporting, but that isn’t what we have in the persons of Joe Markley, Tom Foley, and John McKinney.

Thirty years of stagnant wages and falling standards of living for the working and middle class in this state and country. The Reagan Revolution is an abject failure for 99% of America. Time to move on.

posted by: justsayin | March 27, 2014  3:51am

Like sheep our legislators follow the leader iff the cliff. A sad day for CT. Making it harder every day to get up and run a small business in CT.

posted by: Joebigjoe | March 27, 2014  6:34am

Commuter you said “Wage rates are do not determine employment levels. They are, at most, a marginal factor, highly correlated with a narrow set of business types.”

I can’t even begin to tell you how wrong that is. However, in this case let me play along and agree with you.

So, from here on out, people on your side of that argument can never again bring up CEO’s pay and how much overpaying them takes away additional jobs that could be created. After all in your world how much people make and its impact on how many employees and the asscoaited labor expenses is a marginal issue.

posted by: ASTANVET | March 27, 2014  6:51am

Commuter - first that is a poorly thought out and volatile comment.  Wages are (or should be) determined by the amount of labor you bring to the market.  Not all labor is created equal, meaning that some is worth more to the market than others.  Wages are performance credits for your goods or services.  When the government arbitrarily demands that your service is worth XX dollars an hour, you have ascribed a value that is not represented in the market.  It constricts business because they are now required to pay a certain wage for unskilled or untrained labor.  This means that you have to pay a high wage to someone who (for a lesser cost) you could train to do a skill.  There is a boat load of empirical study on the impacts and effects of minimum wage increases on urban employment, youth employment, and unskilled employment.  The largest population growth in the US is categorized as UNSKILLED and UNDER EDUCATED.  This will have disastrous effects.  Google Thomas Sowell’s testimony to congress on the minimum wage…

posted by: jim black | March 27, 2014  7:00am

Something is really wrong with this state. Why would we want to follow this failed Presidents stupid policies hook, line, and anvil. Can’t wait for the stories when little Johnny can’t find a summer job.

posted by: art vandelay | March 27, 2014  7:03am

art vandelay

@Commuter,
I think you’ve been drinking the Democrat Kool-Aid a bit too long.  You’re also not a student of history.  The 1980’s in Connecticut saw the greatest economic growth since the post WWII.  The Democrats had complete control of the purse strings. Under O’Neill the Democrats spent every dime they could get their hands.  It resulted in the passage of the state income tax in 1991 by the Democrats under the insistence of Lowell Weicker. The state of Connecticut has been in a depression (not recession) ever since.  I have to thank the Democrats with the help of a number of RINOS who put us in this economic mess.  Open a history book and stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

posted by: Greg | March 27, 2014  7:56am

Odd, the topic of why it’s so expensive to live in CT never came up in the meeting.  Why won’t these democrats tackle why gas is 25-30 cents higher/gallon compared to MA, or why electric rates are so high, or why everything else in this state costs more than everywhere else in the lower 48?

If they really cared about the poor, they’d reduce the cost of living instead of meaningless wage increases that are spread out so far it won’t matter by the time we get to $10.10 in 2017.

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | March 27, 2014  8:17am

@Greg - Thanks for admitting that the cost of living is very high in CT.  I’m pretty sure this was on the mind of the legislators who voted in favor of raising the minimum wage in CT. Giving a rich person another $100 per week wouldn’t improve their lot much.  But giving $100 per week to a poor person would quickly get that money back into the economy - here in CT. Economists say ‘just giving money’ to the poor has a two-times multiplier effect in the economy.  Give that money to the rich and . . . well guess.

posted by: SocialButterfly | March 27, 2014  8:31am

@Michael Brown: Our once great state would be in better shape if
more Democrats like Sen. Hartley would vote with Republicans—but as a die-hard Democrat—you do not choose to accept anything except the “one-party rule—-that is burying our state.”  Gov. Malloy is following Pres. Obama’s edict for increasing the minimum wage—but like Obama, Malloy has never been a businessman.

posted by: dano860 | March 27, 2014  8:35am

@ Commuter, “The Reagan Revolution is an abject failure for 99% of America. Time to move on.”
That must be your own thought.
We need to remember that the top 3% pay a majority of the taxes. They also provided many non-minimum wage jobs through out that boom. Unfortunately the unfettered actions of a few allowed for a false economy that crumbled like the house of cards it was.
I am not against the wage hike but we can’t ignore the fact that wages do in fact have an affect on employment. If I am going to pay higher wages I will expect better education and a higher degree of performance.
As I said earlier all I can hear in my head is the song…“put me in coach, I’m ready to play.” I believe Dannel’s choice of site for the bill signing highlights that to the max.
The politics of summer or the boys of summer just about sums it up and this was nothing more than a political move to boost Dannel.

posted by: jim black | March 27, 2014  11:18am

After Obama writes his book “How to destroy a country” Malloy can change the name to “How to tank a state” and put his name on it. That’s all he is, an Obama wannabe.

posted by: Greg | March 27, 2014  12:49pm

@ Mike Brown:

My point is: Why do these legislators never ask themselves WHY the cost of living is so high in this state. 

Hence, if this state wasn’t so gosh darn expensive in pretty much every way, shape, and form compared to 1. our neighbors 2. the rest of the country we wouldn’t need to ballyhoo about how the poor are being left behind here in CT.  In addition, guess who would also have more spending money to dump into the economy? The much-ballyhooed middle class, seniors on fixed incomes, students, young people starting out, etc.  None of these issues exist in a vacuum as the Honorable Sens Beth Bye or Gary Holder-Winfield seem to think, nor is one policy change of increasing the minimum wage by a pittance actually doing anything for the state economy as a whole. 

The democrats can shake hands and celebrate their victory with President Obama all they want on a feel-good singular piece of policy, but at the end of the day they’ve done nothing to make this state cheaper or more competitive compared to the other 49 states in the union.  They’ve done nothing to lift us from last-in-the-country economic growth.  They’ve done nothing to make CT even mildly better for seniors on fixed incomes or the middle class or anyone else for that matter.  Nobody in the capital seems to care except Joe Markley, and he’s summarily dismissed by the majority. 

In the words of the former candidate for NYC mayor:  The Cost of Living In CT Is Too Damn High.

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | March 27, 2014  1:07pm

@Greg - CT is the richest state per capita in the United States.  With that comes a higher cost of living.  Mississippi is the poorest and has a very low cost of living.  You might be happier there.

posted by: Greg | March 27, 2014  2:42pm

@ Mike- The richest state in the nation skewed by a small number of high income hedge fund managers and investment bankers in Fairfield County doesn’t justify the following:

#2 in the continental US electricity costs:
http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a

#4 in the country gas taxes
http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-gasoline-tax-rates-2009-2013

#2 in the continental US gas prices
http://www.gasbuddy.com/GB_Price_List.aspx

#3 in the nation for local-state tax burden:
http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-and-local-tax-burdens-all-states-one-year-1977-2010

And the kicker:

Worst economic growth in the nation for 2012
http://articles.courant.com/2013-06-07/business/hc-connecticut-economy-worst-in-nation-20130606_1_gdp-growth-economic-growth-connecticut

Before another dismissive and unnecessary “if you don’t like it get out”, please make a reasoned and substantive argument showing us how the legislature has worked to bring down the cost of living in this state along with pro-growth policies that will add more jobs and benefit everyone, not just give those at the bottom of the food chain a <$18/week raise. 

I’ll say again, if the legislature actually cared about the poor and the middle class, they’d push policy to lower the cost burden on all of us in this state, which they’re clearly happy not doing.

posted by: SocialButterfly | March 27, 2014  2:51pm

@Michael Brown: Greg sounds like a taxpayer. Please do not suggest that he moves to Mississippi. You appear to like the late Democratic State Central Committee leader John Bailey, who brought the Southern welfare vote to Connecticut for its leading leading social benefits prosperity that brought welfare people to come from the South to Connecticut for much bigger welfare checks and bought Democratic votes as the clincher—a few generations ago—and the grandchildren of these imports aren’t moving back South and lose out on welfare prosperity checks paid for by our tax dollars—
and by the dwindling and minority working class voters.

posted by: dano860 | March 27, 2014  2:56pm

If we give a 10 mile stretch along the western border to New York the income average would look a lot different. The parts of the State I visit are certainly not what we can call wealthy. The eastern border towns are for the most part considered poor.

posted by: Joebigjoe | March 27, 2014  3:31pm

Seriously, other than a few firms that have fled NYC for lower Fairfield County, how often do you hear the following in the news or read it in the news?

“Major Employer” considering Texas, Tennesee and Connecticut as location for new plant

“Major employer” in negotiations to bring 5000 jobs to Connecticut

Connecticut noted as “Best Place to start a company” in latest Wall Street Journal poll

and my favorite that you never hear

Government workers fleeing jobs for the high paying tech hotbed of of the Farmington Valley

posted by: DCSCT1 | March 27, 2014  4:22pm

I agree with Greg and Dano860.  Take the Gold Coast out of the equation and see where per capita income falls.

posted by: justsayin | March 27, 2014  4:54pm

Did everyone forget the “given” money is coming from CT business. So there is no gain in dollars only a redistribution assuming the difference would be profit. Tell me how do we as a state gain from this.

posted by: StillRevolting | March 27, 2014  6:46pm

I’m continually astounded by the fact that nobody with a vote in Hartford can separate gay marriage from smart economic policy. We just aren’t powerful enough to legislate fairness into every facet of the human condition and the more we try when it comes to markets, the more we feed the ugly pig that has become our government.  No market drives love so, benefits extended should be so universally to any two people loving each other enough to declare it through marriage. That Connecticut Democrats made it happen is a good thing. The same principals cannot be applied to the minimum wage which is driven in large part by market conditions. Or, at least, it should be. Mess with that market and things get a little harder for most of us without more than marginal benefit for the target beneficiaries. Has anyone noticed that our economy lags the nation in most metrics while Malloy and his feel-good legislature has meddled in some way with just about every business that has an “open” sign? Where are my socially liberal fiscal conservatives? Isn’t there anyone who can legitimately be called a Yankee Republican looking for office out there? I applaud Connecticut Democrats for doing some good in areas that they should have. Their nightmarish economic results are so bad that in the interest of what is best for all 3.5 million of us in my native state, I can’t help return them to office next fall. They should get out of the way when they should and they never will. They are crushing business and just hastening the addition of the middle to the bottom without improving the lot of the bottom at all. The middle can’t continue to eat the tax hikes without real wage increases which will never happen until the economy succeeds which will never happen with the government in the way. Simple, get it? Connecticut Democrats never will and, not personally drawing a check from the capitol, I just can’t afford to keep feeding the pig. Again, are there any actual Yankee Republicans looking to represent me either in Hartford, or, in Washington?

posted by: Commuter | March 27, 2014  7:00pm

@ Joebigjoe - you’ve never heard me make such a statement. And, as I’ve indicated elsewhere, I don’t accept your “your side” versus our side approach to things.

@ ASTANVET - not sure why you found my comment particularly affronting, I see nothing to qualify there. And anytime you’d care to start citing your “boatloads” of “empirical study,” be my guest. Your enjoined serves to illustrate my point, IMHO.

@ Art Vandelay - your grasp of Connecticut’s economic and fiscal history is… selective, to say the least. And the Reagan era experiment is a failure across the country, not just in Connecticut.

@ Greg - there are answers to all the issues you raise. Surprising, given your obvious interest, that you don’t know what they are. Quick hint: we’re at the end of every supply chain, and for twenty years our (Republican) governors paid no attention to the sources of these structural problems. Malloy is. ‘nuff sed.

@ dano860 - well, at least you support the wage hike.

posted by: ASTANVET | March 27, 2014  8:16pm

Commuter - there is just no reasoning with you.  Like Gutbomb, you are tied more to party and progressive ideology than to reality.  Sadly rational thought is all but lost in CT, as is a low cost of living.

posted by: Greg | March 28, 2014  7:47am

@ Commuter: Clearly I am a moron, thank you for pointing that out.  You lay the blame at the hands of Republican governors but you oddly omit any responsibility of the lawmaking body of this state, which to my prior point has done NOTHING to change the course of the CT economy. Legislation and policy starts in the legislature, or so I learned in public school in Waterbury 20 years ago. 

I will ask again and nobody seems to want to answer: Point out where the legislature has pushed policy to bring down the cost of living in this state and enact pro-jobs, pro-growth policies. And then after you point out all these pieces of public policy, then you can blame the governors for not executing. Blaming Rowland and Rell and whomever else doesn’t absolve a consistently democratic legislative body—at times with a supermajority—for making this state a high cost, low growth state.   

To wit:
We’re at the end of every supply chain, and for twenty years our (Democrat) legislators paid no attention to the sources of these structural problems.

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | March 28, 2014  12:08pm

@Greg - Got it.  You hate CT.  It’s too expensive for you.  M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. Very cheap to live there.

posted by: robn | March 28, 2014  1:12pm

NTMB,

In the decade from 2001-2011, New Haven taxes went up 80%. In the same time frame, compounded inflation only went up 26%. Part of the reason is local overspending; part of the reason is the state welching on its PILOT commitment. You would think that all that extra money in the pocket of the state would have lowered state taxes but the opposite happened and to boot, state debt has increased dramatically. So GREG has a point. This has everything to do with overspending. Using the Marxist argument that wealth “capacity” should be tapped doesn’t change the lack of productivity the state legislature exhibits after they’ve already already tapped.

posted by: SocialButterfly | March 28, 2014  1:59pm

@NTMB: Why don’t you move to Mississippi instead of encouraging other people to move there? You seem to like their low cost of living that you are recommending.  What’s keeping you in Connecticut?

posted by: Joebigjoe | March 28, 2014  2:04pm

NTMB I understand the point you are trying to make, but what you dont get is that there is a breaking point. For many CT has hit that breaking point but it hasn’t hit that breaking point for the masses. When it does, and it will at the trajectory we are going, there is no turning back the clock. Our beautiful state will be toast and turn into something even people from Mississippi don’t want.

posted by: Greg | March 28, 2014  2:37pm

Brown- I want to have a public policy debate. You keep telling me to move away, which seems to be the default argument when someone can’t point to the legislature’s grand public policy making CT a pro-growth state. 

I guess you win:

Don’t like it, move somewhere else. 

Thanks.

posted by: Commuter | March 29, 2014  5:03pm

@ Greg - blaming the legislature is a red herring. The history is there to read if you weren’t around to live it. Rowland and Rell were terrible governors who did nothing to effectively come to grips with the issues of electricity costs, disinvestment in infrastructure, a state economy that was undergoing structural, long-term change or, most basically, to address the state’s long-term obligations responsibly. Malloy is demonstrating the truth of that and the fact that a great governor makes all the difference in Hartford.

posted by: Commuter | March 29, 2014  5:06pm

@ ASTANVET - you consistently resort to name calling and labels. That’s just weak. And I see nothing unreasonable about inviting you to share your “boatloads of empirical study.”

posted by: SocialButterfly | March 30, 2014  2:19pm

@Commuter:  As a proud Democrat you are expected to classify Malloy “as a great governor.” However Malloy never had a job approval rating of 50% or better. And despite all of his taxpayer paid daily news media reelection releases that give him no edge as he ia in a dead-heat tie against Foley in the latest poll. Once Foley begins campaigning, he will break the tie and bypass Malloy in the polls.