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5/27/2015 Minimum wage legislation moving ahead
STATE HOUSE – Legislation to raise the Rhode Island’s minimum wage is now moving forward in both chambers.

The sponsors, Rep. David A. Bennett and Sen. Erin P. Lynch, have agreed to amendments that will raise the state’s minimum hourly wage from $9 to $9.60 effective Jan. 1. The bills (2015-H 5074, 2015-S 0194), which initially called for an increase to $10.10 an hour, are expected to be amended in the Labor Committees of the Senate today and the House tomorrow, and will be forwarded to their respective chambers’ floors afterward.

“Increasing wages for those at the bottom of the pay scale provides hard-working Rhode Islanders with income to spend on the basics they need. Increasing the rate so that it remains competitive with neighboring states is fair, and it helps Rhode Island workers support themselves, making it less likely that they will need to rely on government assistance,” said Senator Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

Said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), “When people have more money in their pockets, they spend more money, especially those who are making minimum wage or little more. When they make more, they put that money right back into our economy buying the things their families need, supporting local businesses that need their dollars. And because the minimum wage applies to all businesses, raising it doesn’t put anyone at a competitive disadvantage, particularly since our surrounding states’ minimum wages are the same or higher. A stronger minimum wage will mean a stronger economy for Rhode Island.”

If enacted, it will be the fourth consecutive year of incremental minimum wage increases in Rhode Island, each time the result of legislation sponsored by Representative Bennett and Senator Lynch. Before their bill raising it from $7.40 to $7.75 on Jan. 1, 2013, it had not been increased since 2007. This January it rose from $8 to $9.

Legislative leaders pointed to the minimum wages of surrounding states as one reason Rhode Island needs another raise next year. The rate in Connecticut will also be $9.60 in 2016 and $10.10 in 2017. The rate in Massachusetts will rise to $10 in 2016 and $11 in 2017. (The Rhode Island legislation does not address 2017.)

“I have always believed we need to be competitive with our neighbors. Massachusetts and Connecticut will increase their rates next year, and we should offer comparable wages. Raising the minimum wage will give our workers at the low end of the scale more economic purchasing power and will provide a better standard of living,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Said President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), “Rhode Islanders must be paid wages that realistically reflect the value of their work and the costs of products and necessities for living today. Neighboring states’ minimum wages are a good barometer of where ours should be, because the costs of living are roughly similar. Keeping Rhode Island’s rate in line with the neighboring states’ will help bolster Rhode Islanders’ buying power and strengthen our economy.”

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923