Vermont lawmakers are considering a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. But there’s debate over the timeframe for such an increase.
On Tuesday, the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee voted to support a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour next January, with inflationary increases thereafter. On Thursday, the House Appropriations followed suit. But the measure still needs to be assessed in the Senate. Governor Peter Shumlin has suggested incremental increases to $10.10 by 2017, which many in the Senate support. Business interests are lobbying for the stepped increases. Vermont Grocers’ Association President Jim Harrison says his members see another option. “Our membership prefers the existing law, which automatically increases the wage each January by the Consumer Price Index so it keeps up with inflation. By doing that we’ve already moved into the position of having the third highest minimum wage in the country.”
Peace and Justice Center Executive Director Rachael Siegel hopes legislators opt for the quicker timeline. “I hope that they’ll be able to move ahead this year and that they will keep increasing it until we get to a liveable wage. $10.10 is no where near a liveable wage. Certainly not for anyone other than a single person. Anyone with family members and dependents needs more money than that needs more money than that just to get by and live with some dignity and security.”
Siegel says $10.10 per hour is not a livable wage in Vermont.
Vermont Workers’ Center Executive Director James Haslam agrees, adding the state must do better. “There’s been many proposals this legislative session for much more then $10.10. So there’s a lot of interest in this state to moving forward towards a liveable wage as soon as possible. There’s a lot of support for what the House is doing with $10.10 in 2015, but it should keep going and go up again in 2016. And then in 2017 get to $12.50 an hour.”
Jim Harrison says implementing a quick and dramatic increase by next January would be detrimental for businesses and eventually consumers and workers. “If you have a huge amount of costs that you have to try to absorb it could mean that sometimes full time employees do not get the raises that they would have otherwise gotten. Or it means an employer, a business, has to cut back on health care benefits or other issues. Or they have to raise prices. If you put too much pressure in terms of increasing costs especially all at once, then the retailer has to look at ways to get that back otherwise they run the risk of not being in business anymore.”
Vermont’s current minimum wage is $8.73. A House committee has asked the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office to do a study of the impact of the minimum wage increase, and what it would take to move toward a livable wage.
The minimum wage in New York and Massachusetts is $8. New York’s is scheduled to increase to $8.75 on December 31st and to $9 on December 31, 2015.
CT’s minimum wage is $8.70. It’s scheduled to climb incrementally to $10.10 by 2017.