Update from the Capitol: Minimum Wage

Posted on May 10, 2019 by admin


We have slightly less than four weeks left of the legislative session. I wanted to update you on the legislation that passed yesterday that many feel will further impede our efforts at fiscal recovery for our state. Here is a summary and my thoughts on it. As always, please let me know your thoughts on this and any other pending legislation.

I voted against H.B. 5004, An Act Increasing the Fair Minimum Wage from $10.10 per hour to $15 per hour (a 48.5 percent increase) over a four year period beginning October 1, 2019 ($11/hour). The rate would then increase $1 per year until June 1, 2023, when it becomes $15. From then onward, the minimum wage would rise automatically with the employment cost index. Only individuals under 18 years of age will be eligible to receive 85 percent of the minimum wage for the first 90 days of employment.

This bill was called on the House floor at 10:00 p.m. on May 8th and was debated for just over 14 hours before going to a vote shortly after 12:00 p.m. the following day. The bill passed 85 to 59 without a single Republican vote. Two Democrats voted in opposition as well.

As a House Republican Policy Chair, I consider this one of the most anti-business proposals to come before the Connecticut General Assembly. The proponents of the bill said this legislation was about fairness.

Want to discuss fairness? How is it fair to the family-run businesses in our communities that will potentially need to reduce their staffs’ hours, lay-off valued employees, scale back services, raise their prices or even close their doors for good just because of this bill? How is it fair to the workers who will need to fight even harder for the few remaining jobs in their towns because employers have determined they cannot afford to hire? How is it fair to the college students who need to work year-round just to pay their tuition and avoid taking on tens of thousands of dollars in loans? How is it fair to disabled individuals who need these positions?

It’s not. This bill may have been well-intended, but it certainly will not feel that way to the thousands of people across Connecticut who may face unemployment as unintended consequences of this legislation. This will cripple many of our nonprofits that provide valuable services to our most vulnerable residents including the disabled, seniors, children, and low-income families.

More than half of the businesses (58.2%) in our state have less than 100 employees. Small business owners in Norwalk and Darien with whom I spoke, expressed universal and deep concern about this legislation. “We continue to see that top-down, heavy hand of government is not a productive way to grow our economy.  It is essential to stabilize our state economy with predictable and practical policies that encourage businesses to come to and stay in Connecticut. This will continue to be my priority.

Everyone in the legislature wants to see wages eventually increase and our economy recover. We want people to earn more, we want them to spend more, and we want them to have a higher standard of living. That’s the American dream, and if we allow the free market to operate with minimal intervention, I believe that our economy will improve. The problem is that this legislative body cannot get out of its own way and continues to pass legislation and budgets that are damaging to our already fragile state economy. If our state slides into another recession, will our Democratic colleagues still call this bill progressive? I doubt it.

House Republicans made several attempts to amend the bill. Amendments included language to protect municipalities (LCO 8201), and non-profits, hospitals, and universities (LCO 8204). Other amendments addressed seasonal employees (LBO 8259), learners and beginners (LCO 8280), as well as farm and agricultural workers (LCO 8266). None of the Republican amendments passed and few had support from Democrats.

The bill now awaits action in the Senate.