They may not support a hike in the minimum wage, but Republican lawmakers are realistic about their chances of changing or killing it during a Wednesday legislative session.
“I’m not sure what the vote will be in this committee or on Wednesday when we take it up. I think it’s inevitable that it’s going to pass,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said. “I think it’s going to cause a lot more problems than the help that people purport it to be.”
It’s an election year and increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017 is a top issue for Democratic lawmakers. President Barack Obama visited Central Connecticut State University on March 5 and rallied with supporters in favor of the increase.
Cafero said the Democratic majority would like nothing more than to use this vote against Republicans in an election year by getting them to “go on and on and on about it, but we’re not taking the bait.”
Cafero attended the Appropriations Committee Monday to let his members know it’s not a battle they need to wage.
Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, focused on the fiscal note for the bill and tried to avoid the public policy argument.
The fiscal note for the bill states that increasing the minimum wage will cost the state an additional $103,000 in 2015. In 2016, the state will incur an increase of $383,000 to various state agencies, and $785,764 to account for the new collective bargaining agreement reached with daycare workers who participate in a state-funded program.
The fiscal note also says that “many contracts entered into since 2008 have a provision that allows the contractor to seek a price adjustment if the minimum wage is increased. As a result, the timing of these impacts is uncertain.”
Miner wanted to know if the committee would be accounting for the increased salaries of the newly unionized daycare workforce in a budget it will release later this week.
Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman Beth Bye said the fiscal note says there is a small fiscal impact to the state this year.
“Like everything when there’s a fiscal note we have to find the funding for it,” Bye said.
Bye then turned to Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, who said the minimum wage was “faceless.”
“We’re not seeing the people who are being directly related to this issue,” Walker said.
The minimum wage currently in Connecticut is $8.70 an hour. That’s about $350 a week for those working 40 hours. Walker said that’s not enough to help lift anyone out of poverty.
But Republican Sen. Rob Kane said the argument creates an “us versus them” mentality, which isn’t accurate.
Kane, who owns KarTele Cellular Phones in Waterbury, said it’s the business owners who employ people who worry about having enough money to continue paying their employees.
“This whole building. This whole idea about helping people, it’s false,” Kane said. “You’re actually going to do more harm than good.”
He said if Connecticut wants to sustain job growth then it needs to stop mandating how much private companies pay their employees and start lowering taxes so they can create jobs and “expand their payrolls.”
But Walker disagreed.
“How do you separate business from the quality of life of the people that are trying to survive?” Walker said. “. . . We have to make sure all families are being represented, not just a small portion. Not just the business owner, but also the families that work in that business.”
Bye said CEO pay has gone up 15 percent between 2011 and 2012, at the same time as worker pay decreased by 2 percent over that same period of time.
“When the money keeps going to the people at the top, it’s not spent in the communities,” Bye said.
She said an increase in the minimum wage would be spent in the communities where it’s earned because individuals with such little income have to spend it in order to survive.