Waterbury Rep-Am Op-ed: The minimum-wage problem

January 5, 2016

Republican American

This month, Connecticut’s minimum wage increased to $9.60 per hour, another step up before our state reaches the $10.10 per hour approved to go into effect next January.

While raising the minimum wage has become a popular talking point for many politicians, the truth is, it is an action that fails to truly help the people most in need.

On the surface, it’s easy to tout and claim victory for the people.

But in reality, increasing the minimum wage will not help create new jobs and it will not remove the barriers that make it difficult for so many people to find jobs in the first place.

Raising the minimum wage is an attempt to mask an inability to take on the real challenges of our state that become magnified in our cities: bettering our education system and establishing a realistic path for students to get good-paying jobs that match their skills, right out of high school.

What we really need is smart, compassionate and focused reforms that will remove obstacles and empower people.

We need to bring Connecticut’s educational opportunities in line with the 21st century by creating additional opportunities to succeed without attending college.

We need to implement policies that reduce burdens for families and employers alike, to promote broad prosperity that makes it easier for people to find living-wage jobs.

We need to assist people without the training or skill-set to get these jobs. Forcing businesses to raise their wages does nothing to help people access education or develop skills. It also does not help remove burdens on businesses that prevent them from growing new jobs.

We need to help children and families move out of poverty. Despite significant pockets of wealth, poverty continues to plague our state, measured at 11.3 percent in 2013. The unemployment rate, while falling, continues to exceed the national average.

While the state’s unemployment rate hovered just below 8 percent, Hartford’s unemployment rate was 23.1 percent in 2013, up from 20 percent in 2010 and 13.7 percent in 2007. Of those unemployed in Hartford, 58.2 percent of them are between the ages of 16 and 19, and 26.2 percent of them are between 20 and 24.

Raising the minimum wage does not address the root of the problems many young people face, especially those faced by young people in our inner cities.
To reduce poverty, to help the next generation, we have to decrease unemployment and improve education. To grow jobs, to promote skill-focused schooling, and to remove barriers to opportunity for the unemployed, we have to do much more than raise the minimum wage. We need to actively work in our cities and schools, starting in ninth grade, to supply students with the confidence and the tools they need to obtain jobs after high school, with the potential for growth. We need to make a promise that we will be there to help them achieve success.

Being content with minimum-wage increases as a solution — their only solution — Hartford Democrats have failed again to outline comprehensive economic and education reform to help those most in need.

In the upcoming legislative session, Republicans will propose reforms and seek change. The challenges are tough, but to truly combat poverty, we can’t be content with shying away from the hurdles.

– Len Fasano, a Republican, serves as Senate minority leader. He represents the 34th Senate District, which includes Wallingford and East Haven, as well as parts of North Haven and Durham.