Sen­ate ap­proves $15 min­i­mum wage

Bill passed 21 to 14 along party lines

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris­tine Stu­art

HART­FORD — The Sen­ate sent leg­is­la­tion to Gov. Ned La­mont on Thurs­day that will in­crease the min­i­mum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour over 41⁄2 years.

The bill passed 21-14 along party lines.

La­mont is ex­pected to sign the bill into law.

The bill will raise the min­i­mum wage over 41⁄2 years and then in­dex it to the em­ploy­ment cost in­dex. The cur­rent min­i­mum wage of $10.10 an hour will in­crease to $11 in Oc­to­ber, $12 on Sept. 1, 2020, $13 on Aug. 1, 2021, $14 on July 1, 2022, and then $15 on June 1, 2023.

The bill will also cre­ate a train­ing wage for 16- and 17-year-olds, which will be 85 per­cent of the min­i­mum wage for up to 90 days. Af­ter that the rate will go up to the min­i­mum wage.

The Sen­ate de­bate fol­lows a marathon 14-hour de­bate in the House, which cov­ered many of the is­sues. In­stead of de­bat­ing the mer­its of the leg­is­la­tion, se­na­tors spoke more broadly about what role the min­i­mum wage has played in their own lives.

Sen. John Kis­sel, R-En­field, talked about the sense of pride he had when he got his first pay­check from pick­ing to­bacco at a farm in Wind­sor when he was 14 years old.

Sen. Gary Win­field, D-New Haven, talked about the sac­ri­fices his mother made in or­der to pro­vide for him.

“My mother never took a sin­gle va­ca­tion in the whole time that I knew her,” Win­field said. “She died be­cause she lit­er­ally worked her­self to death.”

Win­field added: “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could not pos­si­bly stand here and look at the peo­ple of the state and say that’s OK.”

Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said her par­ents worked min­i­mum wage when she was grow­ing up. She cred­ited the abil­ity to move from a cam­per into an apart­ment on her mother’s third-shift min­i­mum wage job at a food packing plant.

“There are so many peo­ple for whom this wage is go­ing to make all

the dif­fer­ence in the world, but frankly is also not enough,” Flexer said.

A $31,200 salary will be the to­tal an­nual income for some­one who works full-time mak­ing a $15 an hour min­i­mum wage.

She said there are only a few peo­ple serv­ing in the Sen­ate and the House who truly un­der­stand what that re­al­ity is like. “Who re­ally un­der­stands what it’s like to only have $5 left, or who truly un­der­stand what it’s like to have to de­cide whether to pay the elec­tric bill or the heat­ing bill,” Flexer said.

Sen. Julie Kush­ner, D-Dan­bury, a re­tired la­bor or­ga­nizer, said she’s been fighting her whole life on be­half of work­ers try­ing to “get them closer to what would be a liv­ing wage.”

There was a recog­ni­tion that $15 an hour isn’t a liv­ing wage in Con­necti­cut. To af­ford a two-bed­room apart­ment in Con­necti­cut, the Na­tional Low Income Hous­ing Coali­tion es­ti­mated a worker needs to make $24.90 an hour.

But for Re­pub­li­cans it was about whether busi­nesses are go­ing to stay in Con­necti­cut or leave for an­other state be­cause they can’t af­ford the in­crease in the min­i­mum wage.

“This bill will af­fect the same peo­ple it’s try­ing to help,” Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Far­i­field, said.

At least two Repub­li­can se­na­tors men­tioned Fo­rum Plas­tics of Water­bury, which pays 153 em­ploy­ees min­i­mum wage and has threat­ened to leave if the bill is signed into law.

“We want to stay, we don’t want to be forced out,” Dave Peliz­zon, pres­i­dent

“My mother never took a sin­gle va­ca­tion in the whole time that I knew her. She died be­cause she lit­er­ally worked her­self to death.” Sen. Gary Win­field, D-New Haven,

of Squadron Cap­i­tal, the hold­ing com­pany for Fo­rum Plas­tics, said in a Yan­kee In­sti­tute news re­lease. “But if you do raise the wage to $15 per hour, we will have no choice but to leave. And it’s very sad.”

Kis­sel said the time­frame of 11 months be­tween in­creases is “too fast.”

“These are gi­ant jumps,” he said. He said it would have been bet­ter to have the wage go up less dra­mat­i­cally be­cause no one would have to lose their job as a result of this leg­is­la­tion.

“I wish it was less dra­matic in­creases over a longer pe­riod of time,” Kis­sel said.

Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, who owns Flan­ders Fish Mar­ket, said busi­ness owners are not the bad guy.

“Small busi­ness cre­ates 80 per­cent of the jobs in this coun­try,” Formica said. “... That’s where the job creation is com­ing from and the pres­sures this as­sem­bly is plac­ing on small busi­ness is mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for small busi­ness to make the prof­its nec­es­sary so that they can con­tinue to pay taxes, so they con­tinue to em­ploy peo­ple, so that they con­tinue to invest in cap­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture.”

Jes­sica Hill / Associated Press

The state Sen­ate sent leg­is­la­tion to Gov. Ned La­mont on Thurs­day that will in­crease the min­i­mum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour over 4.5 years. The bill passed 21-14 along party lines. La­mont is ex­pected to sign the bill into law.

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