The Rhode Island Senate Wednesday approved legislation that will raise Rhode Island’s minimum wage to $9.00 beginning in January 2015.
The bill, 2014-S 2249A, provides a $1.00 per hour increase next January over the Ocean State's current minimum wage of $8.00, which went into effect at the beginning of 2014.
“Individuals working minimum wage jobs in the state, jobs that are absolutely vital to keep our economy running and many businesses functioning, need to earn a fair wage,” said Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), the bill’s sponsor. “Nobody should be working a full-time job at a wage that keeps them in poverty.”
“This is the right thing to do, and despite concerns that have been voiced by foes of raising the minimum wage, it is actually a fiscally sound thing to do,” said Senator Lynch. “Individuals earning more can afford to support themselves and are less likely to rely on expensive government services. Individuals making a little more don’t put that money in offshore accounts but rather put it right back into the economy, to buy food and clothes for their children and pay for their utilities.”
According to the Women’s Law Center, 60 percent of workers earning minimum wage are females. According to the AFL-CIO, raising the minimum wage will affect 65,000 Rhode Islanders.
Rhode Island’s current minimum wage went into effect this January, as a result of legislation enacted by the General Assembly last session that was also sponsored by Senator Lynch.
Not only will the increases proposed in the legislation help those at the bottom of the pay scale make a little more, said Senator Lynch, but the timing of the increase – at the beginning of the calendar year – will ensure that businesses have ample time between now and then to prepare to implement the new rate, she said.
Remaining competitive with the region
Raising Rhode Island’s minimum wage, said Senator Lynch, would keep the state even with or close to nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut, states with which Rhode Island is often compared and contrasted.
In Connecticut, for instance, a recently enacted law raises that state’s minimum wage from the current $8.70 to $9.15 on January 1, 2015; then to $9.60 on January 1, 2016, and $10.10 on January 1, 2017.
The Raise Up Massachusetts ballot initiative will, if approved, raise the Bay State’s wage from the current $8 to $9.25 at the beginning of 2015, and to $10.50 beginning in 2016. Beginning the following year, the minimum wage in Massachusetts would be tied to the cost of living. The ballot initiative would also increase the hourly wage of tipped workers to $4.15 in 2015 and to $6.30 the following year.
The minimum wage of the other New England states is: Vermont, $8.73, with an increase to $9.15 scheduled in 2015, then to $9.60 in 2016, to $10 in 2017 and to $10.50 in 2018; Maine, $7.50, and New Hampshire, $7.25. The federal minimum wage, which has not changed since 2009, is $7.25.
The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6,Providence), Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick).
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Similar legislation, 2014-H 7194, has been introduced in that chamber by Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) and is before the House Committee on Labor.