Obama plugs popular minimum wage hike plan in Connecticut

NEW BRITAIN, Connecticut Wed Mar 5, 2014 3:42pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on raising the minimum wage at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on raising the minimum wage at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut March 5, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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NEW BRITAIN, Connecticut (Reuters) - A day after unveiling a budget that stands little chance of passing Congress, President Barack Obama traveled to Connecticut on Wednesday to campaign for another proposal that has been dismissed by Republicans: raising the minimum wage.

Obama and his fellow Democrats are fighting to keep control of the Senate in November midterm elections, and are promoting populist measures that poll well, like raising the minimum wage, seeking to set themselves apart from Republicans.

"It's common sense, that's all I'm trying to say. It's just common sense," Obama said in a campaign-style speech to about 3,000 people at the Central Connecticut State University, just outside of Hartford.

After the speech, he was set to fly to Boston to speak to two fundraising events for the Democratic National Committee.

Obama has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, up from the current level of $7.25, which he said would lift wages for 28 million people. Three-quarters of Americans agree it should be hiked.

"It would immediately raise millions of people out of poverty. It would help millions more work their way out of poverty. And it doesn't require new taxes, doesn't require new spending, doesn't require some vast bureaucracy," Obama said.

Connecticut has already raised its state minimum wage above $7.25, and Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy is seeking to hike it again to $10.10.

To magnify his point, Obama sat down earlier for a spicy Korean BBQ steak sandwich at the Cafe Beauregard just off Main Street in New Britain, across from the courthouse, where owner Rob Chiovoloni pays his staff more than $10 per hour.

"He knows what it's like to work all his life and understands that if people are working hard, they shouldn't be in poverty," Obama told reporters.

Obama's spoke a day after he pushed Congress to spend more money on education and training, and infrastructure by ending tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Americans.

Republicans dismissed the budget proposal, saying it would hurt the economy.

They have made similar objections to raising the minimum wage, bolstered by a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which said the plan could lead to 500,000 fewer jobs.

"We know beyond dispute that raising the minimum wage will destroy jobs for people who need them the most. When folks are still struggling to find work in this economy, why would we make that any harder?" said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican Speaker John Boehner, in a statement.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Tom Brown)

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