Christine Stuart photo

It was a victory lap of sorts. On Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy returned to Café Beauregard in New Britain, where he dined with President Barack Obama earlier this month, to sign a bill increasing Connecticut’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“We want to lead this discussion,” Malloy told a room of supporters.

The new law will raise the minimum wage to $9.15 on Jan. 1, 2015; to $9.60 on Jan. 1, 2016; and finally to $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017.

Connecticut was the first state to get the bill passed, which prompted a congratulatory phone call earlier in the day from Vice President Joe Biden, who thanked Malloy and key lawmakers for passing the legislation.

“Our message back to the vice president was, ‘Mr. Vice President, you can use this and use the states that are marching in the right direction. But we need to do this on a national basis,’” Malloy said. “No one in no state should work 40 hours a week and still live in poverty. Connecticut has put the marker down. Other states will follow. We’re going to get the job done.”

Malloy said Connecticut has put a marker down and other states will follow.

Legislative Republicans and business groups criticized the increase which comes on the heels of an increase last year in the minimum wage which boosted it to $8.70 an hour this January and would have boost it to $9 an hour next January.

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said Wednesday that the legislature continues to send the state’s businesses mixed messages. He pointed to a vote last year to increase the minimum wage over two years.

“Folks we just did this a year ago. Did we get it wrong a year ago? Did we blow it?” he said.

What’s different today than one year ago?

“We created more than 22,000 private sector jobs. We’ve gone from being in a deficit situation to being in a surplus situation. We’ve gone from having no money in the rainy day fund to having hundreds of millions of dollars in the rainy day fund,” Malloy said. “This is part of a continuum to reach as many people as we can. To lift women out of poverty in our state.”

Would Connecticut even be considering increasing the minimum wage if it hadn’t been a presidential priority?

“Do I believe that $10.10 is the right number for us now? I believe the answer is yes,” Malloy said. “I believe the nation will adopt it eventually.”

He said that if U.S. Speaker John Boehner allowed the bill to be called on the floor of the House it would pass.