Hartford — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 in three years — the same wage President Barack Obama called for during his State of the Union address last week.
The General Assembly approved an increase of the state minimum wage last year to $9 by Jan. 1, 2015. The proposal Malloy made Tuesday, if approved, would increase it annually until it is $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017.
"I think it is the right thing to do," said state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, chairman of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. "It starts getting us to where we are actually looking at wages."
Osten said she would have liked to pass legislation last year linking the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index in 2016 so that lawmakers wouldn't have to continually vote on raising the minimum.
Several other local state legislators, including Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, and Rep. Ted Moukawsher, D-Groton, said they needed more time to think about whether they would support another minimum wage increase.
"I think our economy is pretty fragile. It has not kept pace with inflation, so there is an argument to be made for trying to have it be more suitable to the economic times we are in. But I really need to think about it," Moukawsher said. "I am sure businesses aren't going to like it, and I have heard different arguments for and against it."
Tony Sheridan, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, said he would support the proposal if the $10.10 hourly wage doesn't take effect until 2017.
"It's hard to imagine if somebody can live on 10 bucks an hour, so we need to sort of figure out how to rebuild the middle class …" Sheridan said. "There will be businesses that it will impact negatively, but as long as we are looking at a 2017 timeline, I think Connecticut's economy will be better by then."
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who is running for governor, said raising the minimum wage would cost Connecticut jobs and hurt small businesses and young workers.
"I think what you need to ask is, (is) that 18- or 19-year-old, who is unemployed because they can't get a job, whether they would want a job for $9 an hour or have no job at $10.10 an hour," McKinney said.
He said that he wasn't surprised by Malloy's announcement on Tuesday because the president already announced he wanted a $10.10 minimum wage.
The annual salary of someone who works for $10.10 an hour, 40 hours per week, would be $21,008. About 70,000 to 90,000 workers of Connecticut's 1.7 million-strong workforce earn the minimum wage, according to the governor's press release.
Last year, the legislature passed and the governor signed into law legislation that raised the state's minimum wage to $8.70 from $8.25 on Jan. 1, 2014, and will raise it further, to $9 on Jan. 1, 2015. Malloy's proposal would raise the minimum wage to $9.15 on Jan. 1, 2015, to $9.60 on Jan. 1, 2016, and to $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017.
"There is a debate happening across our country on how to tackle the growing income inequality that is detrimental to our middle class families and to our economy," Malloy said in a press release. "… When workers earn more money, businesses will have more customers. This modest boost will help those earning the least to make ends meet."
Connecticut Working Families, an organization that advocates for the working class and middle class, and Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a union representing 35,000 employees in the state, both said they supported Malloy's proposal.
"With Congress paralyzed, Council 4 members are pleased to see Governor Malloy answering the President's call for states to lead on the minimum wage issue," said Sal Luciano, executive director.
New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio last week proposed an ordinance that would raise the city's minimum wage for municipal employees and contractors to $10.10 an hour.