(Updates with governor signing minimum wage hike)
By Richard Weizel
MILFORD, Conn., March 27 Connecticut Governor
Dannel Malloy on Thursday signed into law a measure that will
phase in the highest minimum wage of any U.S. state, in line
with a push by Democrats nationwide to raise the entry-level
The bill, which was approved by state legislators a day
earlier, will raise the state's minimum hourly rate to $10.10, a
figure that matches what U.S. President Barack Obama has asked
Congress to consider imposing nationally.
Malloy signed the legislation on Thursday evening in the
same New Britain diner where he appeared earlier this month with
Obama and three other New England governors: Deval Patrick of
Massachusetts, Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Lincoln Chafee of
Rhode Island. All are Democrats who have pushed to raise the
minimum wage in their states.
New Britain, located in the center of the state, has been
hard hit by the economic downtown with the household median
income at about $35,000, compared with the statewide median of
"This is just a step in moving people in the right
direction," Malloy said in signing the bill. "We will be lifting
people out of poverty in the state of Connecticut. Increasing
the minimum wage is not just good for workers, it's also good
for business," he added.
Connecticut's Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, also a
Democrat, said: "Raising the minimum wage helps people who need
it most, is good for the economy and is the right thing to do."
State House Republican spokesman Patrick O'Neil said his
party opposed the measure because it does not believe the bill
will help create jobs in a state with an unemployment rate of
7.2 percent, above the national average.
"This is just politics in an election year and isn't going
to lift anyone out of poverty," O'Neil said.
"In Bridgeport, the state's largest city, there is a 50
percent unemployment rate among teens ages 16-19. If they can't
get a job at $8.70 an hour, what will it be like when the rate
goes up?" he said. "This is just going to cause employers who
create jobs in the state to hire even fewer people."
Obama's call for a higher national minimum wage has failed
to win the backing of the Republican-controlled U.S. House of
The Congressional Budget Office said in a report released
last month that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour
nationally would reduce total employment by some 500,000
Connecticut's minimum wage currently stands at $8.70 per
hour, and the bill will be phased in to $10.10 over three years.
The current highest state minimum wage in the United States is
Washington's $9.32, above the $7.25 federal minimum.
Malloy is up for re-election this year and state Republicans
have called the measure a politically influenced move.
(Editing by Scott Malone, Gunna Dickson, Dan Whitcomb and Lisa