Senate OKs bill to raise minimum wage

Hartford — The Senate voted 21-15 Thursday to raise the hourly minimum wage to $8.70 from $8.25 on Jan. 1, 2014, and to $9 from $8.70 by Jan. 1, 2015.

“The very least we can do is pass this very modest increase to give them some increase starting in 2014 and a slight increment again in the following year,” said Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven.

The bill was essentially Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s minimum wage proposal, not the one proposed by the Labor and Public Employees Committee. That panel’s bill would have increased wages more substantially and continued to increase the wage based on the Consumer Price Index.

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, the committee’s co-chairman, announced the bill in the Senate and described how the price of food had increased with inflation, whereas wages had not. “I was looking at the old restaurant menu (of her parents’ business) … from the early 1960s, and on it, an English muffin sold for 15 cents, and the minimum wage was $1.25 in 1963,” she said.

Osten said she went to a couple of Norwich restaurants to find out how much the price of an English muffin had increased over the years due to inflation.

The Olde Tymes Restaurant charges $2.01 for an English muffin, and The Spa at Norwich Inn charges $7.50 for an English muffin with butter and jelly, she said. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, as English muffins have, the hourly minimum wage at those two establishments would be $12.44 an hour and $53 an hour, respectively, she said.

“We’re not asking for $53 or $12.44 an hour or anything close to covering the cost of inflation over decades,” Osten said. “We’re asking for 75 cents an hour over two years.”

Many Senate Republicans opposed the bill and said it would hurt businesses and result in job losses.

State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he supported increasing the minimum wage when he first joined the legislature in 2003. “We had a booming economy, a surplus in the state, and businesses were thriving,” he said, adding that there’s a huge difference today from a decade ago.

State Sen. Joe Markley, R-Plantsville, said, “I hope we all realize what a desperate situation we stand in here in the state of Connecticut.”

State Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, and Looney, who supported the bill, argued that raising the minimum wage could help the economy.

Meyer said a report by the Economic Policy Institute stated that “raising the minimum wage means shifting profits from the employer, who is much less likely to spend money immediately, to the low-wage workers, who are much more likely to spend immediately, thus increasing the demand for services.”

Consumer spending would lead to new jobs to keep up with increasing demand, Meyer said.

Osten, state Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, and state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, all voted in favor of the bill.

j.somers@theday.com

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