Could CT lawmakers give another boost to the minimum wage?

Back • Publication Date: December 24, 2022 • Education & Employment, Fiscal & Economics

With Connecticut soon to join 18 other states with a minimum wage linked to inflation or labor costs, Connecticut lawmakers have yet to signal whether they are considering any additional increase to the base rate for 2024 or beyond.

Connecticut’s minimum wage is scheduled to rise a dollar next June to $15 an hour, completing a schedule of five increases since 2019 when Connecticut’s lowest-paid workers received $11 an hour. Under Connecticut law, starting in 2024 the state’s minimum wage will be pegged to an index of employment costs, giving workers additional wiggle room.

Many corporations having pledged base pay at $15 an hour or higher nationally in the past few years in response to worker pressure that intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with annualized inflation above 7 percent in the back half of 2022, the lowest-paid workers have taken the biggest hit in absorbing increases for rent, gas, food, and other basic necessities.

Any further tinkering with Connecticut’s minimum wage would be weighed in the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee, which was chaired in the 2022 session by Sen. Julie Kushner, D-24th, and Rep. Robyn Porter, D-94th.

During a “major issues” conference last week in advance of the 2023 legislative session, a list of topics addressing the labor force did not include the state’s minimum wage, save in the context of boosting pay and benefits for child-care workers. Gov. Ned Lamont and the General Assembly have steered funding to other forms of assistance, including tax rebates for families with children, rent relief and assistance paying heating bills among other initiatives.

Speaking last week during a forum sponsored by the nonprofit Connecticut Voices for Children, Connecticut Speaker of the House Rep. Matt Ritter noted the uncertainties for many families as inflation chipped away at any cushion they had in their household budgets.

“We are at a place in Connecticut where stability and predictability are really important — I often read how that’s important for businesses,” Ritter said during the forum on CT-N. “It’s just as important for families.”

Working 40 hours a week with paid vacation, a worker making $15 an hour would have annual earnings of just over $31,000. That forces many low-wage earners to take on extra jobs to make ends meet in Connecticut and other Northeast states, where the already high cost of living is exacerbated by increased heating costs this winter.

The Internal Revenue Service received more than 560,000 tax returns in 2020 from Connecticut residents making less than $25,000 for their total annual income that year, about 114,000 of them from couples filing joint returns or individuals categorizing themselves as heads of households.

New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, Virginia, Florida and California are among the states nationally with minimum wages that adjust for inflation.

As a result of California’s inflation escalator, workers there will get an extra $1.50 an hour starting in January at companies with 25 or fewer employees, and 50 cents more for those at larger employers. Going forward, California will have a single minimum wage regardless of the size of a company.

Due to a reporting error, an initial version of this article misstated Connecticut’s mechanism for minimum wage increases, which is pegged to an employment cost index.

 

Authors: Alex Soule •  Source: CT Insider • View

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