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Minimum Wage Bill Passes Committee

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File photo of money exchanging hands. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images News)

File photo of money exchanging hands. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images News)

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SHANNON YOUNG
Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A bill that would raise Connecticut’s minimum wage by $1 an hour over the next two years to $9.25 and eventually tie future increases to inflation passed its second round of committee votes Friday.

Members of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee voted 29 to 20 in favor of the bill. The Labor and Public Employees Committee passed the bill last month. It now goes to the House of Representatives.

The measure would raise the current hourly wage from $8.25 to $8.75 effective Jan. 1, 2013, and to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2014. After July 1, 2014, the state’s labor commissioner would be required to annually announce an adjusted rate based on increases to the region’s consumer price index.

The bill also would adjust the “tip credit” for workers in gratuity-driven industries, tying it to proposed minimum wage increases.

The increase would affect the nearly 106,000 people earning minimum wage in Connecticut, placing the state among those with the highest minimum wage in the country, House Speaker Rep. Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, said in written testimony.

If the bill survives the legislative process, it’s not clear whether Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will sign the measure into law.

Advocates pushing for the increase argue that the current rate amounts to about $17,000 a year for a full-time worker and puts the state’s low-wage employees below the poverty line.

“What we’re talking about _ anybody working for $8.25 per hour is working for a poverty wage,” said committee member Sen. Edwin Gomes, D-Bridgeport.

Gomes spoke in favor of the bill during committee debate, noting the high cost of living in Connecticut.

But opponents say that raising the minimum wage in the current economic environment could lead to job losses and a reduction in work hours for employees because of tight business budgets.

“The state of Connecticut can’t afford anymore anti-business legislation,” said Rep. John Rigby, R-Winsted.

Michael Saltsman, a research fellow for the Employment Policies Institute in Washington, said a recent analysis by the institute of Connecticut’s proposed hike found that raising the minimum wage would do little to reduce poverty and could make it harder for unskilled workers to find and retain jobs.

Using U.S. Census data, the report found that the average family income of an employee affected by minimum wage in Connecticut is more than $80,000 a year. By way of explanation, Saltsman said that nearly half of the state’s minimum wage employees are young adults and teenagers who live at home.

But Kennard Ray, political director for Connecticut Working Families, said minimum wage employees are not just teenagers anymore.

“The current reality in our new economy is that you have families that were once middle income, but are now struggling and working any job they can to support their families,” Ray said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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