CT Governor Signs Wage Bill – NY Times

March 28, 2014

By ALISON LEIGH COWAN MARCH 27, 2014 | New York Times

Just weeks after an appearance in which he, President Obama and three other governors promoted a minimum wage of at least $10, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy returned to the Cafe Beauregard in New Britain, Conn., and signed a bill that will raise the state’s to $10.10 starting in 2017.

Though other states are also looking at lifting their minimum wages and Mr. Obama is urging Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $10 or more an hour, Connecticut’s future rate would be the highest of all state rates that are now on the books.

“This legislation is about making sure that people working full time and supporting families aren’t living in poverty,” Mr. Malloy said. “The extra money that these folks earn will be put back into our economy and help our communities.”

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently set rates that are higher than the $7.25 imposed by federal law, with Washington State topping the list at $9.32, Oregon second at $9.10, Vermont third at $8.73 and Connecticut fourth at $8.70.

Connecticut’s bill also added 15 cents an hour to next year’s rate, so that workers can count on $9.15 an hour as of Jan. 1, 2015, and it awarded workers another raise the following year to $9.60.

State officials estimate that 70,000 to 90,000 people there now earn the minimum wage.

Republicans cautioned that the bill will make Connecticut, a state that also has some of the most expensive energy costs in the nation, even less appealing to business than it already is. They expressed fear that companies would simply pare their head count at a time when Connecticut’s unemployment rate is already higher than average: 7.2 percent in January, versus a national rate of 6.6 percent.

L. Scott Frantz, a Greenwich businessman whose firm owns an interest in Chop’t and who is also a state senator, said the state should not be seeking bragging rights when it comes to higher wages.

“It’s like so many of the other anti-business characteristics of the state,” he said in an interview. “We should not be touting that we have a high cost of energy and that we’re number one or two in terms of our gasoline tax.”

A higher minimum wage, he argued, “puts a damper on job growth, and I always thought it was better to have a job paying nine dollars and 15 cents an hour than no job.”

Nonetheless, with an election year ahead, the governor did not seem eager to risk losing the distinction of being the first state to heed the president’s call, and signed the bill within a day of receiving it from the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Though public opinion polls tend to show that a majority of Americans favor a higher minimum wage, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the effect on employment from a national increase to $10.10 would be anywhere from a “very slight reduction” to as many as one million lost jobs.

Debate was spirited in Hartford, too, even if the tallies hewed closely to party lines. In the end, the bill passed, 21-14, in the Senate and, 87-54, in the House.

Taking note, the White House issued a statement from Mr. Obama on Thursday congratulating the state for setting an example and expressing hope that “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.”