WNPR

Minimum Wage Bills Test New Balance In The Legislature

Feb 22, 2017

The fight over raising the minimum wage in Connecticut may be one of the issues that tests the new strength of Republicans in the General Assembly. 

Connecticut's minimum wage was just increased in January to $10.10 an hour -- the last of a series of hikes specified in legislation passed in 2014. Republican lawmakers, alongside many in the business community, say its not time to raise it again.

Two bills, which would raise the wage to $15 an hour in the next five years, came before the legislature’s labor committee Tuesday - one moved by the House and one by the Senate.

Rep. Edwin Vargas, a Hartford Democrat, told the committee that in a consumer-based economy, raising the minimum wage is good for everyone.

"The power of the purse is what keeps the economy going," he said. "If wages continue to depress in the state of Connecticut, and people have no buying power, we're going to see further reductions in the income tax, we're going to see further reductions in the sales tax -- simply because people won't have the disposable income to buy."

Republican Mike Bocchino said he understands both sides of the issue.

"We are under scrutiny of course, because of the economic difficulties that we face here in the state of Connecticut," he said. "I truly believe that there are alternatives, subsidy wage and the use of the earned income tax credit, to those families would still allow for them the opportunities that they seek to climb that ladder."

The Senate is now balanced, with 17 Democrats and 17 Republicans, which gives the GOP more leverage and changes the procedures in committee.

It's a sign that the House of Representatives may become the principal arena for partisan issues this session.