Published March 26. 2014 4:00PM Updated March 27. 2014 12:11AM
Hartford — The state Senate and House of Representatives voted Wednesday to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2017.
The Senate approved the bill 21-14 earlier Wednesday, while the House voted 87-54 in favor of the bill that evening. The governor is expected to sign the bill at 6 p.m. today at Café Beauregard in New Britain, where President Barack Obama dined recently while in town to deliver a speech on raising the federal minimum wage.
“I am proud that Connecticut is once again a leader on an issue of national importance,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a press release. “Increasing the minimum wage is not just good for workers, it’s also good for business.”
Connecticut will be the first state in the nation to pass legislation that raises the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as Obama has called for. Several Republicans said they would rather have a unified federal minimum wage increase than a Connecticut minimum wage increase.
Obama, who visited Connecticut earlier this month, said in a press release that he commended Malloy for his leadership.
“But to truly make sure our economy reward the hard work of every American, Congress must act,” Obama said.
Connecticut’s minimum wage is $8.70 an hour and is scheduled to increase to $9 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015.
“This bill is a modest step forward on behalf of those who have the least, working their hardest to provide for themselves and their families,” said state Sen. Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn. “The least we can do is give them a hand up.”
Lawmakers debated the bill for more than five hours. The majority of Democrats voted in favor of the bill and said the increase would help employees working full-time on minimum wage get out of poverty. Republicans voted against the bill and said raising the minimum wage would cause job losses and hurt small businesses.
“We are hurting the people we are trying to help,” said Rep. Dave Rutigliano, R-Trumbull.
The U.S. Congressional Budget Office reported in February that if the federal minimum wage were raised to $10.10 an hour, 500,000 jobs would be lost across the country.
“The small businessperson is hanging on by their fingernails — yet we heap upon them burden upon burden,” said House Republican leader Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk.
The majority of Connecticut’s businesses are small businesses that take risks and create jobs, said state Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown.
If the minimum wage is increased again, “there will be less people creating their own businesses and creating jobs,” Kane said.
“It is as if we are casting the employer with a broad brush, as though they are money suckers who could give a damn,” Cafero said. “I know that not to be the case.”
For many of these businesses, the “mere fact that they might have to lay someone off rips their heart,” he said.
The bill would also hurt young people, said Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield. In Bridgeport, nearly half of all teenagers can’t find jobs, he said.
“I would love to go talk to a mother in Bridgeport whose 16-year-old or 17-year-old daughter can’t get a job and ask her, would you want your daughter to work at eight dollars and seventy cents an hour or do you want her unemployed at 10 dollars and 10 cents?” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the bill was a matter of fairness.
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 members of Connecticut's 1.7 million-strong workforce earn the minimum wage.
“We are dealing with very, very poor people who work minimum-wage jobs,” he said.
Many of these people are working full-time but depend on government and nonprofit assistance through programs such as food stamps, food banks and soup kitchens, he said.
In Connecticut, 80 percent of Connecticut’s minimum wage workers are age 20 or older and half of them work full-time, Williams said.
State Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, said the bill will reward work and reduce the cost of social welfare programs.
“It will show that we value work more than dependency,” he said.
Republicans in the House and Senate proposed several amendments to separate the minimum wage bill from the increase in wages for waitresses. They also tried to increase the length of time that employers would be allowed to pay young people a reduced minimum wage rate. All amendments failed.
State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he has supported raising the minimum wage in the past but said he would not support it while Connecticut’s economy continues to struggle.
“Our job should be to create jobs,” Fasano said. “That should really be our focus, not to artificially create wages.”