HARTFORD, CT — The House was expected to debate an increase in the minimum wage Wednesday, but there was still a lot to be negotiated, including whether tipped workers also should receive an increase.
The Appropriations Committee sent a bill to the House on Tuesday that increases the state minimum hourly wage from $10.10 to $12 on Jan. 1, 2020; from $12 to $13.50 on Jan. 1, 2021; and from $13.50 to $15 on Jan. 1, 2022. It would also increase the wage tipped workers and bartenders receive and then index it in future years.
The contentious debate Tuesday held up the start of the House session.
Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, said he can’t imagine operating a “full family” on a minimum wage, but he can’t support the bill.
He said the bill is exactly the same one approved by the Labor Committee. He said not one word was changed to accommodate the concerns of small businesses or restaurants.
Miner also said he doesn’t believe there will be changes to the legislation before the House or the Senate vote.
Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, said right now if people are earning slightly above the minimum wage, $12 an hour, and are working 35 hours per week they are making $420 per week. An increase to $15 an hour would mean that same person will be making $525 per week in three or four years.
She said that based on the cost of living in Connecticut, someone needs to make $19 an hour “to make it and afford it.”
“The quality of life should be afforded for all,” Walker said.
“I am very saddened by many of the conversations today because we spend more time talking about what we shouldn’t do for the people of Connecticut as opposed to what we should do,” she added.
Sen. Paul Formia, R-East Lyme, said small business owners like himself are not the enemy.
He said his workers earn their wages at his restaurant and improve their lives.
“In business, the most important asset you have is the people on the frontline,” Formica said.
He said servers can earn between $19 and $40 an hour.
“I take exception when people say business doesn’t provide for quality of life,” Formica said.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said the tip credit is still an outstanding issue and he needs to talk with his members about it.
Aresimowicz said it’s his understanding that they would increase the minimum wage over four years instead of three, and allow for a youth employment wage. He said 16 and 17 year olds will be able to work for up to 85% of the minimum wage for up to 90 days.
“The tip credit has still yet to be determined,” Aresimowicz said Tuesday during his pre-session briefing.
He said they could decouple the tip credit from the minimum wage.
Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said she thinks they need to take into consideration the small restaurants.
She disagreed with her co-chair on the issue.
“This is not a living wage,” Osten said. “This is not going to stop someone from working two jobs.”