Connecticut’s minimum wage will rise to $15.69 in January under the first annual adjustment required by a 2019 law tying the wage to the employment cost index.
The automatic 4.6% increase is dictated by a U.S. Bureau of Labor metric used to measure hourly labor costs.
“This is a big deal, it will make a difference,” Gov. Ned Lamont said during a press conference at Windham Town Hall.
Lawmakers voted to gradually increase the minimum wage from $10.10 in 2019 to $15 as of June, but they also approved increasing the rate every year based on the ECI.
Ed Hawthorne, president of Connecticut AFL-CIO, praised lawmakers and Lamont for changing the law so minimum wage increases no longer need regular votes by the legislature.
“It always looks good when you’re hitting doors and you’ve got it on the card ‘I voted to pass the minimum,’ but the real vision that everyone here showed to do the right thing rather than the political thing cannot be left unsaid,” he said.
The announcement comes less than a week after the U.S. Labor Bureau reported that the Consumer Price Index was at 3.7% on an annual basis in August.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiwiecz estimated that 10% of Connecticut’s workforce will benefit from the increase. She also cited a Center for American Progress report estimating 114,000 children statewide live in households with a parent making at or below minimum wage.
“A lot of people think that the minimum wage is something that teenagers make, but no, there are so many adults out there in our state that are trying to support their families,” she said.
Officials in Windham celebrated the announcement. Town Manager Thomas DeVivo said the rural community ranks 168th, out of 169 towns, in terms of having the lowest wage earners.
“This will help people pay their rent, this will help people keep on top of it so they don’t end up in homelessness or other issues,” he said.
Connecticut Business and Industry Association Vice President of Public Policy Eric Gjede said the increase will hurt businesses, though, especially since the it will come six months after the minimum wage rose from $14 to $15.
Still, he said most employers are already paying above $15.69.
“We are struggling in just finding employees, so our businesses are forced to pay even higher wages and provide even more benefits,” he said.
Some speakers, including Lamont and Hawthorne, touted that the indexed increases give businesses predictability. Gjede disagreed.
“I don’t know that it is going to provide predictability other than knowing that it’s going up, but of course we don’t know by how much until they make this announcement every year,” he said.
Lamont said the increase, coupled with other measures by the state, will help working families. That, in turn, is good for the economy, he said.
Lamont pointed to the current budget, which cut in the income tax and raised the Earned Income Tax Credit, as measures that help lower income families.
He also said the state has other programs to help, including workforce development programs and expanded support for childcare. When asked about restoring the Child Tax Credit Monday, Lamont focused on those other programs and benefits.
“I think there are a lot of ways we’re making life a little more affordable for people, and I think that’s the way we should go,” he said.