HARTFORD — As the legislative session heads into its final days, Senate Democratic leaders are saying that there isn’t enough support for an increase in the state’s minimum wage, but that’s not stopping advocates from making a last-minute pitch.
Outside the Dunkin’ Donuts at the corner of Lawrence Street and Capitol Avenue, Miranda Simonds, a Willimantic gas station attendant, joined the Working Families Party and union members in calling on lawmakers to pass the bill.
Even though Simonds makes 75 cents more an hour than the current minimum wage, she figures an increase may also give her a bump in pay. She said any increase would go a long way to improving her quality of life.
Last week, after paying taxes and child support for her three children, she ended up with about $90 dollars in her pocket. Simonds is currently on state-funded health insurance, as well as Section 8 housing assistance, which means she pays about $200 a month for her apartment in Willimantic.
“I just bought these shoes today. It took me two years to be able to buy shoes,” she said.
How could she support herself on $90 a week?
“Your guess is as good as mine,” she said.
“In order to buy my shoes today, I can’t do my laundry till next week.”
Simonds, 30, dropped out of school in the ninth grade to care for her mother, who was unemployed. At a certain point things got so bad, she said, that she and her mother lived in their Ford Pinto for three months.
She said she’s disappointed that the minimum wage hike being discussed by lawmakers has been reduced from $1.50 over two years to 50 cents. She called the decision to lower it “ridiculous.”
Back at the Capitol, Kia Murrell, associate counsel for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said that advocates for the working poor are misguided and that the Earned Income Tax Credit program is a far better method for alleviating poverty. Under the EITC program, low-income workers get a tax credit back from the state based on their income and how many children they have.
In what Murrell calls a “battle of the experts,” those advocating for a minimum wage increase and those opposing it often make claims directly contradicting each other. For example, advocates like the Working Families Party say that the so-called “mom and pop” small businesses would not be adversely affected by a wage increase, but rather it would be large corporations like Walmart and McDonalds with massive profit margins. Groups like the CBIA are saying the exact opposite. Murrell said that the disagreement comes primarily from competing studies from different economic policy centers.
A report from the National Employment Law Project, released Thursday, asserts that “real wages” have declined in the past year, and that the economy is becoming increasingly dependent on low wage jobs.
Those on different sides of the issue disagree about the value of $10 in this economy, which is the increase in weekly wages under the bill’s 25 cent increase in the first year.
Ten additional dollars a week “could fall out of my pocket,” and is not worth the negative impact it would have on business, Murrell said.
Asked how her life would change with an extra ten dollars a week, Simonds said “it would be a lot easier to be able to support [my children], and to be able to take them to see a musical or take them out to Bushnell Park if we had more money.”
“For children it should be possible to do anything,” she said.
After the rally outside the Dunkin’ Donuts, Simonds and Working Families Party Communications Director Carl Gibson went to the office of Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn.
Earlier this week, Williams told reporters there wasn’t enough support in his caucus to raise the bill, which passed the House last month.
“Barring some significant turnaround, we have a number of folks who would not support the minimum wage bill as it’s currently written,” Williams said Tuesday.
Simonds wanted to talk about it, but Williams was meeting with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at the time. Simonds met instead with an aide, who said she would pass the message on to Williams.