Wrong Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

February 13, 2018

The Governor’s State of the State address was full of promises to his Democrat base. He would create a liberal utopia with guaranteed paid sick leave, nearly all energy from renewables, and everyone voting through the mail. What wasn’t in the speech was a plan to pay for his lofty initiatives. The sorry state of Connecticut’s finances, its struggling economy and its weakling job market was never mentioned

The facts are that Connecticut is losing employers, jobs, and income at an unprecedented rate. When you add tolls, higher gas taxes, a tire tax, and even a 25-cent charge on a bottle of wine into the economic equation, you create a roadmap with all signs pointed at Connecticut’s borders.

One of the Governor’s and Democrat Legislators’ pet proposals that would accelerate this exodus is raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The minimum wage is called a wedge issue. Any opposition for economic reasons is labeled callousness.  Democrats maintain that opponents only care about the wealthy. They want to divert attention from the miserable economic situation Democrats created for Connecticut.  Many believe proposals like this, particularly at this time, would damage Connecticut’s struggling economy and further weaken its anemic job market.

Connecticut’s unemployment is higher than any other state in the Northeast.  Jobs are scarce and Connecticut is losing 18-34 year olds to states with thriving economies.  In fact, Connecticut is the only state with a shrinking economy and barely perceptible recovery.

Truth is raising the minimum wage during a bad economy is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Workers get burned when businesses that are unable to absorb higher wage mandates in a stagnant economy have no choice but to lay off employees.

I know first-hand what it’s like to work a minimum wage job. When my family and I emigrated from Italy to Connecticut and didn’t know English. We all worked minimum wage jobs. With no education, literacy, or resources, we were grateful for any opportunity to climb the economic ladder.

I still hear my father’s voice telling me that although it was too late for him, education is everything. He knew education is the only way out of poverty. Throughout my youth and college, and with Dad’s prodding, I worked whatever job I could find to help support myself and pay for a college education.

I later earned an advanced degree while raising my family, working, and serving on my local town boards.  My career prospects and income greatly improved as I obtained more training, a higher degree, and a professional certification. I worked at multinational firms and started small businesses.

As a business owner, I understand how badly timed policies can affect a job creator.

Connecticut is still in world of economic hurt. Our businesses are struggling to survive. They’re frustrated with a government that shows a casual indifference to their plight.

Raising labor costs increase the costs of goods and services for businesses that want to keep their staff employed. Furthermore, the small increase a minimum wage earner will receive may not be enough to offset the higher costs businesses are forced to pass on to consumers. In addition, those earning the minimum wage will be hardest hit by the Governor’s increased taxes. The very people the Governor and Democrats say they want to help will be hurt the most.

Our nation is undergoing a widening income gap and the middle class is being squeezed. Good-paying Connecticut and US jobs go unfilled because of a lack of technically trained workers. People don’t need a higher minimum wage as much as they need the education and training to qualify them for these jobs. In most cases, a better education leads to the higher wages that will close the income gap.

The marketplace, not the state house, truly has the power when it comes to job growth. Let’s focus on the real economic multiplier, closing the education gap so that our people have the best opportunity to succeed.

State senator Boucher is vice chair of the Finance Committee and a co-chair of the Education and Transportation committees. She represents Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.