Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said that though he “is very supportive of raising the minimum wage,” and that Rhode Island “needs to be competitive” with our neighboring states, he has, “heard from the business community” that they need time to absorb the current wage before increasing it again. Mattiello said that the minimum wage has gone up four years in a row and, “I’ve indicated that we’re going to look at it next year.”
Massachusetts currently has a $10 minimum wage and they are going to $11 in 2017. Connecticut has a $9.60 minimum wage and will go to $10.10 in 2017. Rhode Island’s minimum wage of $9.60 will remain in effect until at least 2018, making our state an outlier. Speaking at a community event in Providence last night Governor Gina Raimondo expressed some disappointment that the 50 cent increase in the minimum wage that she had proposed was not in the budget.
Douglas Hall, Director of Economic and Fiscal Policy at the Institute, had this to say:
We are disappointed that the house budget does not include an increase to the state’s minimum wage. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 would have raised the wages of 78,000 Rhode Island workers. What businesses in Rhode Island need most are consumers with disposable income–the real ‘job creators’–to buy their goods and services. A $10.10 minimum wage would have given our lowest income workers an additional $27 million in wages. While we are happy to see a slight increase to the Earned income tax credit, the research shows that coupling both an EITC increase with an increase in the minimum wage reduces poverty and boosts the economy.
“And while we hate to see Rhode Island’s minimum wage workers fall further behind neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts, the real concern is that every year we do not increase the minimum wage, we’re effectively cutting the wages of our lowest income earners, as inflation eats away at their already inadequate wages. More than a quarter of those who would have benefited from an increase to $10.10 have children, and more than a quarter are married. One in five Rhode Island children have a parent who would have seen an increase in wages. Instead, a full-time, year-round worker earning the Rhode Island minimum wage will see the buying power of their $19,960 eroded by inflation. With one in five Americans living in a jurisdiction that’s on a path to a $15.00 minimum wage, Rhode Island families working hard for low-wages are being told they have to wait.”