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Minimum Wage Hike Passes Committee On Party Line Vote

by Hugh McQuaid | Feb 28, 2013 5:05pm
(7) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Business, Jobs, Labor

Hugh McQuaid photo

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague

The Labor and Public Employees Committee passed an increase in the minimum wage Thursday along party lines, but the proposal faces skepticism from both the House speaker and the governor.

The committee altered its original bill, scheduling a 75 cent increase in the wage for January 2014, with another 75 cent increase a year later. After July 2015, the minimum wage would rise automatically with the Consumer Price Index once a year.

The bill cleared the committee in a 7-4 vote, but legislative leadership and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy have been less than enthusiastic about the proposal.

At an unrelated press conference Thursday, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said he was “skeptical” of the bill at this point and wanted to see what information comes from the public hearing process.

“I’ve been hesitant about it. I’m not sure we’re still quite out of where we’ve been through in terms of the economic realities out there,” he said. “I need to get a little more information on what impact this may have on, particularly, small businesses in the state.”

Hugh McQuaid photo Sharkey’s predecessor, former Speaker Chris Donovan, was one the biggest advocates behind last year’s unsuccessful effort to raise the minimum wage. That bill passed the House in a close vote. Sharkey, who served as majority leader at the time, was out of town and did not vote on the measure. The bill was never raised in the Senate where there wasn’t enough support among Democrats to pass the bill.

In late January, Senate President Donald Williams said he hadn’t taken a head count of Senate Democrats to see if their support for the proposal has increased since last year. His spokesman said Thursday that hasn’t changed.

It’s also unclear whether Malloy would sign the measure if it passed. Earlier this month, he said he favored a national increase in the minimum wage over a statewide increase. Malloy was asked about it at a press conference days after President Barack Obama proposed increasing the national wage to $9 an hour during his state of the union address.

“The best way to do this would be to do it on a national basis. It would be the fairest way. It would lift up all of our citizenry,” Malloy said.

For generations the minimum wage was raised on a national basis rather than a state-by-state basis, but something happened and the federal government stopped playing a leading role, Malloy said. The governor credited Obama with starting that discussion again.

“I support him in it 100 percent. With respect to any legislation that comes my way, when it comes my way, we’ll make a decision,” he said.

Labor Committee Co-chairwoman Sen. Cathy Osten said she would like to see the bill passed unchanged but would be open to compromise if it were necessary.

“For this bill to pass it has to go through the leadership of all four caucuses and actually have discussion on it on the floor. So I’m not going to say it’s not going to change at all,” she said. “. . . This is a bill I would like to see passed in its entirety but I recognize the reality of situation and I’m amenable to talking about it as we move forward.”

Unlike last year, the Labor Committee approved the bill without chiseling away at their proposed increase in the minimum wage. But Republican lawmakers voiced the same concerns as last year, which led to the reduction.

Hugh McQuaid photo Restaurants, which typically employ many low-wage workers, have been staunch opponents of increasing the minimum wage. Rep. Sean Williams, R-Watertown, said lawmakers should try to consider small business restaurants.

“As far as these restaurants are concerned, we’re killing them. We’re killing their bottom line by doing this,” he said. “I would ask you not to think about the McDonalds of the world, the big corporations we often seek to impact with a bill with this. But think about the small mom and pops, the small companies trying to grow the economy in Connecticut.”

Osten disagreed, telling Williams that she worked for 40 years in a small family restaurant all of her six siblings, as well as dozens of her cousins. She said the diner she worked in tried to increase the minimum wage.

“I take those businesses very much into account when I talk about minimum wage all the time,” she said. “I also look at the amount of people . . . that live on minimum wage, that have barely enough money to supply food and clothing for their children.”

Williams said he appreciated Osten’s background, but was unconvinced they could increase the minimum wage without hurting small restaurants. He suggested he and Osten visit a restaurant together.

“I’d like to go there with you because, while it may seem like there’s no impact to their bottom line, those small businesses are the ones who have to figure out some way to meet these increased costs and that money doesn’t come out of thin air,” he said.

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(7) Comments

posted by: lessismore | February 28, 2013  6:21pm

...More expense to the business owners bottom line?  Raising the minimum wage does one or both…So is it less employees or give them more money? Will it be less employees or raise the prices to offset the cost of doing business.  The consumer always gets it in the end when the bottom line of a business is squeezed.  It doesn’t matter whether you are taking home more if you have to pay more for the same product or if you are unemployed with lower income and on food stamps.  The food stamps won’t go as far either. Businesses have to also pick up a bigger tab for the unemployment claims and that further erodes the bottom line.  If the minimum wage is raised=more voters headed for the political moved dung heap of handouts.

posted by: Lawrence | February 28, 2013  8:56pm

A lot of restaurants - like the Chowderpot and Wood N’Tap—testified against paid sick lave, claiming it would drive them out of business within a year.

Not only are they still in business, they are hiring and expanding.

Just sayin’.

posted by: Chien DeBerger | March 1, 2013  8:32am

Lawrence, I would like to see what they have done to staff in terms of scheduling, or numbers. They will adapt, but will it be beneficial to the employees?

posted by: dano860 | March 1, 2013  9:13am

If a long term employee had to start collecting unemployment today they get between $450-$515 (before taxes) . That will be equal to $11.25-12.75 / hour.
Malloy is correct, it should be the Federal Govt that controls it. Maybe $10.50 for starters, then business ‘s can increase prices to compensate.
Of course the Feds can print more money to keep things flowing.
Just think, more income…more income taxes.
Maybe I ‘ll get a 35% raise and things will just purr along.
Oh! Is that inflation?
Business’s working on a 20% margin can swing these increases, restaurants, car washes, dry cleaners, drug stores, they are all getting wealthy. Right?
The cost of insurance in CT is going to increase at least 30%, some stories report it will double for some companies, but that will be O.K.
The trickle down effect will take care of everyone…NOT!
Look at how the price of a barrel of oil affects the price at the pump. The same holds true with the cost of services…prices will have to go up.
Has your paycheck increased or decreased this year?
Do you expect a 15-20% raise?
Think this one through also, it will hit more than just the person at the bottom.

posted by: ASTANVET | March 1, 2013  11:32am

Has the minimum wage helped poverty?  no it has not.  So when an employee who is a craftsworker or driver makes say 10 per hour, and the high school drop out with no experience makes 9 per hour, isn’t that going to do one of two things?  either A) make the craftsworker ask for a raise to keep the separation between skilled and unskilled labor relative, or B) create less craftsworkers?  The minimum wage is rediculous.  People should be paid what they are worth, what they bring to the market, and what the market will bear.  Simply put, not everyone is worth $9 per hour to a business.  The consequence of that is that less (untrained) and inexperienced people will be hired.  There is a direct correlation between the rise in the minimum wage and the unemployment rates in urban areas and the rates among teens-early 20’s.  CT please don’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over…

posted by: dano860 | March 5, 2013  12:09am

One thing that was mentioned in this story that truly removes any credibility from it is the statement…“Sharkey’s predecessor, former Speaker Chris Donovan, was one the biggest advocates behind last year’s unsuccessful effort to raise the minimum wage”.
There mention of the “labor loving” crooked Donovan lends no value to this report.

posted by: avenge69 | March 5, 2013  9:19pm

If raising the minimum wage is the answer then why stop? Why not just raise it to $30 an hour? Because raising the minimum wage doesn’t get anyone off the bottom, it just brings the bottom a little closer to everyone else. I think the movement towards raising the minimum wage on the state level and federal level (see Obama’s call for raising fed minimum wage level) as a way to help offset the amount it will cost the feds and states for the national health care, will they raise the federal poverty level to adjust for the raise in minimum wage? or will the raise in minimum wage reduce the subsidies some were to receive under the national health care?