Wading into a controversial issue, the legislature’s labor committee voted 7 – 3 Thursday to approve an increase in the minimum wage by $1.50 per hour over two years.
The vote came on the same day that House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, a small business owner who is known to be more conservative on some issues than other members of his caucus, said he has concerns about hiking the minimum wage in a still-tough economy.
“I’ve been hesitant about it,” Sharkey told reporters at the state Capitol complex. “I’m not sure that we’re still quite out of what we’ve been through in terms of the economic realities out there. I need to get a little bit more information as to what impacts this may have on very small businesses around the state. So, at this point, I’m skeptical about it.”
Any increase in the minimum wage still has a long way to go. Last year, the issue passed in the state House of Representatives, but never reached a vote in the Senate. The issue failed, despite having the backing of one of the most powerful members of the legislature, then-Speaker Christopher Donovan. Donovan was eventually unsuccessful in his standoff against the Senate.
The increases, according to Senate Bill 387, would be 75 cents on January 1, 2014 and then another 75 cents the following New Year’s Day. The minimum wage is currently $8.25 per hour.
After 2016, according to the bill, increases in the minimum wage would be automatically tied to inflation.
“This is an incredible first step,” Lindsay Farrell, executive director of union-backed Connecticut Working Families Party said in a statement. “The legislators on the labor committee have shown real courage by standing up and doing what is right for working families across the state, despite the mounting pressure from corporate interests. They know that raising the minimum wage will keep nearly a quarter-million Connecticut workers from slipping into poverty. We will continue to fight to pass this bill and encourage members of the General Assembly to stand with us.”