House approves minimum wage increase
STATE HOUSE – The House today voted 59 to 13 to approve legislation sponsored by Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) to raise the Rhode Island’s minimum wage to $9.60 beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
The bill (2015-H 5074A) will now advance to the Senate, which is scheduled to vote tomorrow on identical legislation (2015-S 0194A) sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).
“Raising the minimum wage provides a bump for the people who need it most, those at or near the bottom of the pay scale. They are also the people most likely to spend that money right away on goods and services, so the increase goes right back into the local economy, helping local businesses. A stronger minimum wage will mean a stronger economy for Rhode Island,” said Representative Bennett.
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.
In supporting the bill, 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.)
Representative Bennett added that minimum wage increases, particularly those aimed at bringing Rhode Island’s wage up to the level of surrounding states, help employees without putting their companies at a competitive disadvantage, since they apply to all employers. Raising employees’ salaries can also help taxpayers by reducing low-earning workers’ reliance on government assistance.
As originally proposed, the legislation would have raised the rate to $10.10 next year, in line with a proposal made by President Barack Obama in his 2014 State of the Union address. The sponsors agreed to a $9.60 rate as a compromise that moved the bill forward this legislative session.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903