After days in the national spotlight and looking forward to a presidential visit on the subject next week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday he enjoys the politics of the debate over the minimum wage.
Malloy, who is pushing legislation to raise Connecticut’s minimum wage for the second consecutive year, received national attention Monday after a National Governors Association press conference outside the White House. Malloy came to the defense of President Barack Obama, who was criticized during the event by Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
After Jindal accused Obama of “raising the white flag” by supporting a minimum wage hike, Malloy interjected to call Jindal’s comments “insane.” During the next few days, Malloy was featured as a guest on two national talk shows and Connecticut Democrats quickly used the incident to ask for donations from supporters.
On Wednesday, Malloy’s office used its Twitter account to announce that Obama plans to travel to the Hartford area March 5 for an event supporting legislation to raise Connecticut’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017.
At a Friday press conference, the governor sidestepped questions over the timing of a presidential visit. He was asked whether his defense of Obama in the wake of Jindal’s comments influenced the president’s decision to visit the state.
“You know, what I would say to you about this is that any questions about the president’s timing or decisions where he’s going are better directed to them. Let me assure you, I’m more than happy to receive him in the state of Connecticut,” Malloy said.
The governor also took the opportunity to reiterate his contention that Jindal’s comments regarding the minimum wage “made no sense.”
“Let me point out that the minimum wage applied in Louisiana is $7.25. And they have the second highest proportion of people in any state living in poverty. Like the rest of the country, most of the people earning the minimum wage in Louisiana are trying to raise a family,” he said.
Malloy was asked whether he would support a policy that would link Connecticut’s minimum wage to rise with the Consumer Price Index, which would eliminate the need for periodic debates over the issue. The legislature’s Labor Committee unsuccessfully proposed a similar policy last year. The governor said he rather likes the debates.
“Well, you know, I think this political process is working pretty well right now, to tell you the truth,” he said. “We’ll take a look at it and have that discussion.”
Malloy has not always been such a vocal advocate of increasing the minimum wage. He signed into law the stepped increase that hiked the wage from $8.25 to $8.70 in January and will increase it again next year. But earlier in the debate over that bill Malloy was lukewarm on the legislation, saying he would prefer to see an increase in the national minimum wage rather that the state wage.
“The best way to do this would be to do it on a national basis. It would be the fairest way. It would lift up all of our citizenry,” he said last February.
Asked Friday about his stance on the subject over the last few years, Malloy said he always liked the idea of raising it, but wanted to let other new policies sink in before increasing the wage.
“Actually, I’ve always been for increasing the minimum wage. There was a time when, having passed an earned income tax credit as well as … mandatory paid sick days, we felt it was time to absorb those changes before we absorbed other changes,” he said. “. . . I think we’ve digested a lot. I think the economy is making progress.”