HARTFORD, CT — Repeatedly calling it an “emotional issue,” the legislature’s Appropriations Committee forwarded a minimum wage increase to the House Tuesday.
It passed the committee 27-24.
The committee was largely divided along party lines with Democrats supporting an increase and Republicans opposing it.
Rep. Susan Johnson, D-Willimantic, said they actually don’t know if a $15-an-hour minimum wage “will cause us any harm at all” because there’s been no analysis.
“We don’t know the impact,” Johnson said.
The bill would raise the state minimum hourly wage from $10.10 to $12 on Jan. 1, 2019; from $12 to $13.50 on Jan. 1, 2020; and from $13.50 to $15 on Jan. 1, 2021. Once the minimum wage reaches $15 in 2022, the bill indexes any future increases to annual increases in the consumer price index.
Rep. Michael DiMassa, D-West Haven, said he wasn’t going to speak but “if we can’t afford to lift some of the most disadvantaged people in our community up then I don’t want to hear it. That’s deplorable.”
He said this isn’t one of those things you don’t do because you don’t have the money.
Republican lawmakers who objected to an increase in the minimum wage said the state can’t afford it because every time the minimum wage is increased it impacts certain state and municipal labor contracts.
The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis told lawmakers an increase in the minimum wage will increase costs to the state for community residential services and employment opportunities in the Department of Developmental Services budget by $31.4 million. It will cost the Department of Social Services $14.7 million. It will cost an additional $1.6 million for child care providers paid for through the state budget.
“I’m up to $50 million,” Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, said.
That’s just in 2019 alone.
She said the budget deficit at the moment is $321 million and an increase in the minimum wage would increase it to $370 million.
“We have just increased our budget deficit in these committee meetings over the last few days,” Ziobron said. “It’s not because these are not worthwhile endeavors. It’s because the money tree shriveled up and died. We have no more money.”
She said they are just passing bills with no ability to pay for them.
The Appropriations Committee is expected to put out a spending plan by Friday. It already blamed a series of snow days for missing its scheduled deadline the first week of April.
Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, said the “music is going to stop on Friday.”
He said reality is going to set in on Friday and everyone who voted for bills with significant fiscal notes “are going to be looking at a Lollapalooza budget number. And then I’m going to ask you where the money’s coming from?”
He said he’s doubtful the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee has a plan to make the budget balance.
“This is really unfortunate,” Miner said.
He said he would like people to make more than $15 an hour, “but if we keep making decisions this way it will not be here.”
Republicans continue to push the out-migration narrative and Census data seems to be backing them up. According to the Census data, between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, 22,000 Connecticut residents left for other states.