HARTFORD — With votes scheduled Wednesday, Connecticut is poised to become the first state to adopt a $10.10 minimum wage, delivering on an election-year priority of Gov Dannel P. Malloy.
The Democratic leaders of the Senate and House plan final votes Wednesday, first in the Senate and immediately following in the House, spokesmen for the two Democratic majority caucuses said Monday.
Legislation increasing the $8.70 state minimum to $10.10 by January 2017 was sent to the Senate floor Monday by the Appropriations Committee, the final hurdle before a floor vote.
Under legislative rules, the Republican minority could delay a vote in the House until next week, but House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. (R-Norwalk) said he sees nothing to be gained by a one-week delay.
“What’s the point?” Cafero said.
With two months remaining in the annual legislative session, Republicans have no way to indefinitely block a vote.
The minimum wage was not expected to be an issue this year in Connecticut until Malloy, a first-term Democrat facing re-election this fall, unexpectedly embraced President Obama’s call for a $10.10 minimum wage in February.
Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. of Brooklyn and House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey of Hamden, Democrats who control the agendas of both chambers, quickly backed the governor and president.
Under a law passed last year, the $8.25 state minimum increased to $8.70 on January 1, 2014, and will jump to $9 a year later. The pending bill would amend next year’s increase to $9.15, then commit the state to hitting $9.60 in January 2016 and $10.10 in January 2017.
The issue has quickly become an election-year favorite of Democrats. Malloy was one of four Democratic governors who joined Obama at a rally promoting the minimum wage March 5 in New Britain.
“Average incomes have not gone up. Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to keep up. So, as I said at my State of the Union address, we’ve got to reverse those trends,” Obama said. “It is a central task for all of us to build an economy that works for everybody, not just for some.”
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 71 percent of Connecticut voters favor raising the minimum wage, with 62 percent approving of either going to $10.10 or even higher.
Cafero, who thinks the polling overstates the depth of support for a minimum-wage increase, said Republicans will oppose the bill, as they did Monday in the Appropriations Committee, making the case that an increase comes at a cost of jobs.
“This is just another example. Connecticut is not pro-business,” said Sen Rob Kane (R-Watertown), the owner of a small store that sells cellular telephones.
The Appropriations Committee passed the bill on a party-line vote, with Sen Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury) abstaining.
An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last month concluded that raising the $7.25 federal minimum would alleviate poverty and costs jobs.
“The increase in the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers,” the CBO said. “The large majority would have higher wages and family income, but a much smaller group would be jobless and have much lower family income.”
Economists are divided on whether a higher minimum wage costs jobs as it provides better wages. The Wall Street Journal, in a survey of 48 economists in December, found opposition outweighing support by a 2-1 margin.
Without a higher minimum, nearly 13 percent of the national workforce would be earning less than $10.10 by mid-2016, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Every New England state except New Hampshire has a minimum higher than the federal standard, led by Vermont’s $8.73 and followed by Connecticut’s $8.70, Massachusetts’ and Rhode Island’s $8, and Maine’s $7.50.
(This story originally appeared at CTMirror.org, the website of The Connecticut Mirror, an independent, nonprofit news organization covering government, politics, and public policy in the state.)