Sen. Looney: Still an Appetite for Minimum Wage Increase

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The top Democrat in the Connecticut General Assembly says although there are major budget challenges ahead, there is still the appetite among lawmakers for an increase in the state’s minimum wage. The top Republican disagrees and says his caucus is solidly against the increase given the current economic climate.

Senate President Marty Looney says the legislature has some serious budget work ahead of it. “We’ll likely be taking the three-part approach—spending cuts, some new revenue and some [concessions] from state employee unions,” Looney tells The Hanging Shad. “It’s the three-legged stool. How the third one works out affects the other two.” He added, “Making cuts will be even more difficult this time because we’ve been cutting for years—not just reductions in increases, but actual cuts.” The budget process is currently in the legislative subcommittee stages. The governor’s budget proposal counts on $700 million in savings from labor.

Despite a tough budget year and a rather stagnant economy, Looney believes the time is till right for an increase in the minimum wage. Currently at $10.10 per hour, a new bill would increase it to $15 over five years. By comparison, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is $11 an hour. “[The state’s minimum wage] is still behind where we were in the late seventies and eighties in terms of value when it is adjusted for inflation,” Looney said.

Conn. Senate Pres. Martin Looney (D-New Haven), (l).  GOP Senate Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven).
Conn. Senate Pres. Martin Looney (D-New Haven), (l). GOP Senate Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven).

Senate Republican leader Len Fasano has made it clear his caucus is against a minimum wage hike. “Lawmakers should be looking at ways to create an environment where opportunities for new higher paying jobs can flourish, not making promises that a change in the minimum wage will bring people a better future. We have to do so much more to help people move up and out of poverty, especially in our cities,” Fasano said in a statement. “[Democrats] are desperate to distract from the fact that their actions have made it harder for people to succeed in our state. And sadly, that approach does nothing to help those who are truly struggling,” he said.

The question of increasing the minimum wage in Connecticut this year likely favors Republicans. With the new political balance split at 17 – 17, Republicans would need to convince only one Democrat to flip which would seem fairly easy to do given past voting records.

The state budget itself has caused a mini-revolt among some towns in the state. The governor has proposed adjusting state aid from wealthier towns to poorer municipalities.