FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Minimum wage will increase to $10.10 per hour in 2017 in Fairfield County and across Connecticut after back-to-back positive votes in the legislature Wednesday night.
"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," President Barack Obama said in praising the vote late Wednesday. This gives Connecticut the highest minimum wage in the nation.
During debates in both the Senate and the House, most Republicans spoke about how the steep increase will hurt the business community.
“This is one of those bills that is at first blush easy to vote for, because why wouldn’t you want to help those that need it the most,” said state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Danbury. “When we take a deeper look at it… I think you’ll find something else that’s much more detrimental.”
The bill passed through the Senate with a vote of 21-14. It passed through the House with a vote of 87-54, mainly along party lines.
The first increase to $9.15 would occur in January 2015. Then it would go to $9.60 in January 2016 and finally hit $10.10 in January 2017.
“I think it’s too fast,” said state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich. The minimum wage was increased from $8.25 to $8.70 on Jan. 1 this year and was already slated to jump to $9 in 2015.
“Businesses only have two options, they either have to increase the price of the burger or lay some one off,” said state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton. "Which is the exact opposite of what we’re tying to do."
Many lawmakers cited statistics that Connecticut comes in nearly last when it comes to its business climate as they urged their colleagues to vote against the increases.
“This bill will raise the unemployment rate,” said state Rep. John Shaban, R-Weston.
As a whole, most democrats applauded the wage increase, saying that it will help to decrease the state's income gap and keep young workers in the state.
“Once again, Connecticut is taking the lead on good policy, and once again, Congress should look to Connecticut and do the same,” Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said. "Not only is this the right thing to do for Connecticut families, it is the right thing for Connecticut business as well, who have told me boosting pay increases productivity and worker purchasing power."
Gov. Dannel Malloy applauded the legislature for passing the increases, which he had proposed in his State of the State Address.
“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.
On Thursday, Malloy will be signing the bill into law in a ceremony held at Café Beauregard in New Britain, the same restaurant where he lunched with Obama before a rally in support of the minimum wage hike.