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The Labor Committee approved legislation to raise Connecticut’s minimum wage Tuesday on the eve of a presidential visit to the state in support of the policy.

Tuesday’s 8-3 vote by the Labor and Public Employees Committee advances a proposal that would raise Connecticut’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017, making it the highest in the nation. The bill is in line with a national proposal by President Barack Obama, who will make remarks Wednesday at Central Connecticut State University on the subject.

In a statement, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy praised the committee’s vote. He said the proposal would help lift some working families out of poverty and boost the economy.

“When workers earn more money, businesses will have more customers. This is an important public policy issue that clearly has had bipartisan support in the past, and there’s no reason why there should not be bipartisan support for it now,” Malloy said.

However, Republicans on the Labor Committee opposed the bill. Rep. Richard Smith, R-New Fairfield, said the bill was “feel good” legislation that doesn’t solve the economic problems that contribute to poverty.

“It sounds good, it feels good, but it doesn’t resolve the underlying issues and until we start addressing the underlying issues and throwing the money there, helping those in need . . . and making them part of the workforce to earn a better wage, we’re going to be dealing with this minimum wage issue forever,” he said.

But the committee’s Republicans acknowledged the political momentum behind this year’s legislation, especially in light of the presidential visit.

Hugh McQuaid Photo
“I’m not blind to the importance of this bill both to the administration and the nation,” Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, said. “I think what will be in evidence here over the next day or so is clearly an indication that there’s momentum behind doing something.”

Miner said he still wanted to have a conversation about the proposal and hoped some Republican ideas would be incorporated.

Not all Republicans oppose the minimum wage increase. Gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley released a statement Tuesday afternoon calling the wage hike “a fairness issue” that he supports nationally.