Senate approves minimum wage increase
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today voted 34 to 3 to approve legislation sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) to raise the Rhode Island’s minimum wage to $9.60 beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
The bill (2015-S 0194A) will now move on to the Senate, which voted yesterday to approve identical legislation (2015-H 5074A) sponsored by Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).
“A higher minimum wage helps the people who make the least, and it also has very positive effects throughout the economy. Many employers also give raises to their hourly employees who are just above the minimum. That’s more money in the pockets of people who need it, and they in turn spend that money on the things they and their families need, pumping it right back into the economy through local businesses,” said Senator Lynch. “This increase puts low-wage employees on better footing while also boosting the economy overall.”
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 Senator Lynch and Representative Bennett. 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.
Senator Lynch 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, she said.
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