Furthering the recent calls by President Barack Obama to fight poverty and inequality, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to raise the state’s hourly minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017, making it the highest for any state in the country and matching the amount President Obama wants imposed for federal workers.
The bill, which passed by a vote of 21-14 in the Senate and 87-54 in the House, was lauded by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, who has campaigned with President Obama to increase the minimum wage. Malloy said he will sign the bill into effect Thursday night at Cafe Beauregard in New Britain, Conn. — the same restaurant President Obama dined at three weeks ago prior to a minimum wage rally.
“I am proud that Connecticut is once again a leader on an issue of national importance. Increasing the minimum wage is not just good for workers, it’s also good for business,” said Malloy, following the vote. His sentiment was shared by President Obama, who stated that Connecticut had set an example wages for other states to follow.
“But to truly make sure our economy rewards the hard work of every American, Congress must act,” Obama said. “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.”
Yet the President’s passion was not shared by state Republicans. All Republican state senators, except for the absent Jason Welch of Bristol, opposed the bill, and in the House, all but three of the state’s 53 Republican representatives voted against the bill. Republicans were vocal in their criticism, saying that the increase would serve only a small faction of workers while hurting the hiring prospects in an already ailing state economy.
“We continue to have this schizophrenic attitude, where we say we’re open for business on one hand — small businesses, you’re our backbone, you are our heroes,” said House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk. “Then we keep taking actions that keep punching them in the gut.” That attitude was furthered by other Republicans, including Patrick O’Neil, a spokesman for the state’s House Republican Caucus, who called the proposal “pure politics in an election year,” referencing the fact that Malloy is up for re-election in November.
Neighboring states New York and Rhode Island have already increased the minimum wage in 2014. At present, Connecticut’s $8.70 minimum wage is the fourth highest in the nation behind Washington, Oregon and Vermont. Washington state’s minimum wage of $9.32 is currently the highest in the nation.