By STEPHEN SINGER
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The Connecticut House of Representatives approved a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage Wednesday night.
The House voted 89-53, with eight lawmakers not voting, to pass the bill. The vote came nearly a week after the state Senate approved the legislation.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk. “This is the right thing to do for hard working men and women, and the right thing to do for families,” he said.
The current wage of $8.25 an hour would rise to $8.70 on Jan. 1, 2014, and then to $9 on Jan. 1, 2015. The last increase was in 2010.
Between 65,000 and 70,000 workers in Connecticut were paid the minimum wage last year, or about 4 percent of the state’s labor force, according to the state Department of Labor.
The House debate struck familiar themes: Pro-labor Democrats said low-wage workers deserve a raise, while pro-business Republicans said a higher wage would force struggling companies to cut costs by firing workers and raising prices.
Democratic Rep. Peter Tercyak, House chairman of the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee, said raising the minimum wage would put needed money in the pockets of low-wage workers and help Connecticut’s economy.
“Every single penny of that is going to the local economy,” he said.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said companies are already under stress, which would be worsened by higher labor costs.
“You need only turn on the radio or television or pick up the newspaper to learn of yet another company going out of business, downsizing, laying off hundreds of workers,” he said.
Rep. Richard Smith, the top House Republican on the Labor and Public Employees Committee, said after the vote that back-to-back increases in the minimum wage will “cripple job creation” and increase unemployment.
“Businesses across all sectors, big and small, overwhelmingly oppose the increase because of the devastating effect that raising labor costs has on their ability to retain and hire new employees in this stagnant economy,” Smith said. “I have no objections to a minimum wage increase in times of economic prosperity when businesses are booming, but this is the wrong time and the wrong place. Given the landscape, it will cripple job creation.”
House speaker Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden) said the legislation “strikes the right balance between helping people and jump-starting our economy” in Connecticut.
“We must always be mindful of the economic realities facing working families and a fair minimum wage is a critical part of that equation,” Sharkey said.
Malloy announced his support for the higher minimum wage in April. The Democratic governor said it is good public policy and would keep children out of poverty.
He did not back an earlier proposal that would have increased the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour over two years and required automatic increases based on the Consumer Price Index, the federal measure of inflation.