The Democratic majority and a handful of Republicans successfully overrode Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s veto of a bill that would increase the minimum wage for an estimated 65,000 Connecticut workers.
With less than an hour of debate in both chambers, the House voted 102 to 39 and the Senate voted 25 to 9 to override the governor’s veto and increase the minimum wage 35 cents in 2009 and 25 cents in 2010. That means Diane Edwards, who works part-time at Di Rosa Cleaners in East Hartford, will see her hourly wage go from $7.65 an hour to $8 an hour in 2009 and $8.25 an hour in 2010.
In an interview outside the Senate chamber Monday, Edwards said the additional 35 cents an hour “will mean a lot.” Edwards said she is the sole caretaker of her three grandchildren and any additional money will help the family buy food and clothes.
Republicans Sen. Sam Caligiuri of Waterbury and Sen. Anthony Guglielmo of Stafford Springs joined the Democrats in voting in favor of the override. In the House two Democrats, Rep. Bill Dyson, D-New Haven, and Rep. Shawn Johnston, D-North Grosvenordale broke ranks to sustain the veto, while Republican Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, voted in favor of the override.
After the vote in the Senate, Caliguiri said he met with the governor on Friday to inform her of his decision to vote against her veto. “I’ve taken a hard look at the data and I could not conclude that increasing the minimum wage would result in decreases in jobs.”
Disagreeing with his Republican colleagues, who argued that increasing the minimum wage would increase the unemployment rate, Caligiuri said he looked at employment statistics going back to the 1980s and there was no increase in unemployment rates following minimum wage increases in the past.
Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, who has voted for minimum wage increases in the past said, increasing the minimum wage causes a ripple effect and even workers making above minimum wage are prompted to ask their employer for a wage increase. He said increasing the minimum wage will have a negative impact on workers because they will be laid off when their employer is unable to pay the increased wage.
In an emailed statement, Rell said, “This is a seriously short-sighted decision that – even if well-intentioned – will have long-lasting negative consequences for employers and employees alike all over Connecticut.”
“Even as the national economic picture continues to darken, the Legislature has opted to further cloud Connecticut’s business environment. Instead of making the state more business-friendly, instead of encouraging the small businesses that are the single greatest creator of jobs, instead of positioning Connecticut to succeed when the economy once more begins to grow, the Legislature has taken a step backward, ” Rell said.
Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, said the Republican’s characterization of the minimum wage is “distorted.” She said minimum wage workers will be “spending this money like it’s an economic stimulus.” Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, said research shows that when the minimum wage increases worker productivity soars. “In an economic crisis this is an opportunity,” she said.