Last week House Speaker Chris Donovan was clear he intended to have language raising the state minimum wage inserted into a budget implementer. After meeting with Senate President Donald Williams for more than an hour Friday afternoon, Donovan was less clear.
“We’re talking about trying to figure out where it fits but I think it’s a good idea,” he said.
Donovan’s proposal to raise the minimum wage 50 cents over two years died on the Senate calendar when the legislative session ended. Senate President Donald Williams maintained that there was never enough support to pass the bill in the Senate.
But when Donovan’s signature legislation died, so too did Senate Democrats’ top priority — Senate Bill 1, a measure expanding on the jobs programs passed last October. Though the bill had bipartisan support, Donovan never raised it, in hopes the Senate would reconsider his minimum wage bill.
Williams said the two bills should never have been linked and announced he planned to raise his again when the legislature meets again to pass bills implementing the budget. Last week Donovan followed suit, effectively linking the two proposals again.
“I absolutely support SB1, which along with an increase to the minimum wage will be part of a special session bill,” he said in a statement. “Increasing the minimum wage has the support of 70 percent of Connecticut voters and will help over 100,000 state residents meet basic needs.”
On Friday Donovan still wanted to raise the minimum wage, but didn’t seem as sure it would be raised in the upcoming special session.
“I’ve always been supportive of it, [Williams] has been supportive as well, you know, we’re continuing to talk about it. We’re just trying to figure out the timeline, what issues people are talking about,” he said after emerging from the closed-door meeting.
It was the first time the two Democratic leaders sat down to discuss the budget implementer session.
Republicans argue a minimum wage proposal has no place in a session called specifically to implement the budget. House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said if Donovan is allowed to raise the unrelated concept during the session it will “open the floodgates” to every lawmaker who’s bill didn’t pass in the legislative session.
Asked about those concerns, Donovan said he and Williams were talking about that too.
“Right now we’re just more talking about the process and what things we need to talk about but this is one issue we agree we’re going to keep talking about,” he said.
Some Democrats in the Senate have expressed concerns that using an implementer as a vehicle for both the jobs package and the minimum wage bill will jeopardize the former. Asked if he thought the concern was valid, Donovan said “We’re hoping to make everybody happy. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
For his part, Williams agreed they would continue talking about the issue.
“I’ve always favored an increase in the minimum wage. Senate leadership has always favored it. It’s always been a question of the votes,” he said.
Over the course of the session, Senate Democrats caucused versions of the bill three different times but the votes were never there, he said.
“We were checking in with folks right up until the end of session,” he said.
In the week that’s passed, Williams said no one has called to say they’ve changed their position on a minimum wage increase and, at this point, he has no reason to believe they have.
The question of whether it’s appropriate to raise the minimum wage during a special session is another issue that needs discussing, Williams said.
After nearly an hour and a half of talks, the two legislative leaders did agree on at least one thing going forward, Williams said.
“We did agree that the two bills are not linked.”