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Lamont Defends $1 Boost In Minimum Wage

Gov. Ned Lamont signs the $15 minimum wage bill in 2019.
Mark Pazniokas
Gov. Ned Lamont signs the $15 minimum wage bill in 2019.

Connecticut’s hourly minimum wage increased by a dollar Tuesday to $12 amid a COVID-19 pandemic that has reinforced both the value of low-wage workers and the fragility of the businesses that often rely on them.

Gov. Ned Lamont, a Greenwich businessman who has tried with some success to improve Connecticut’s poor reputation as a place to do business, said Monday he remains fully supportive of the minimum wage increase legislation he signed into law last year after its passage on largely party-line votes.

The Democratic governor said many workers deemed essential during the pandemic have been low-wage or minimum-wage workers.

“A lot of them were bagging your groceries or providing food,” Lamont said. “Some of them were working day care. I think I’m proud of the fact that Connecticut recognizes that and is going to give them a $1 an hour raise.”

The law passed in 2019 raised the $10.10 minimum wage by 90 cents to $11 last October and called for a $1 raise to $12 on Tuesday. Additional $1 increases will raise it to $13 on Aug. 1, 2021, $14 on July 1, 2022, and $15 on Oct. 15, 2023. After 2023, the minimum wage would be pegged to the Employment Cost Index, a measure of wage growth calculated by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The 2019 law requires the governor and legislature to consider freezing the wage if the economy sours. That review would be necessary only if the state faces two consecutive quarters of negative financial growth.

The bill did not raise the $6.38 minimum wage for tipped workers, a crucial part of the restaurant industry.

At a public hearing in March 2019, few witnesses defended the sufficiency of the $10.10 wage, which yields an annual income of $21,000 for someone who works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. 

Once the region’s highest, the state’s minimum today still is lower than the wages in New York, Massachusetts and Maine. It is the same as New Jersey’s and nearly the same as Vermont’s.

The 2019 minimum wage bill was the first to reach a Connecticut governor’s desk since 2015.

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