BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts moved closer to instituting the nation’s highest minimum wage among states under a bill approved yesterday by the state House of Representatives.
The measure, which won Senate approval last week, would raise the state’s $8 per hour minimum wage in three increments to $11 per hour by 2017. A routine procedural vote is needed in the Senate before the bill is sent to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick for his expected signature.
Future increases in the minimum wage would not be automatically tied to inflation, as an earlier Senate version of the proposal would have done.
“This is a groundbreaking moment for Massachusetts,” said state Rep. Thomas Conroy, D-Wayland, during Wednesday’s debate.
He said many of the state’s estimated 600,000 minimum wage employees live in poverty despite having full-time jobs, while others are forced to work multiple jobs to support their families.
“This will be a huge benefit to them to meet their daily needs and hopefully allow them to grab on to a ladder of opportunity,” Conroy said.
The minimum wage would rise to $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015; to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016; and finally to $11 on Jan. 1, 2017.
The measure would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, from the current $2.63 per hour to $3.75 per hour, a 31 percent increase and the first since 1999, Conroy said.
Critics of the bill, which passed on a 124-24 vote, said it would hurt small businesses.
“It’s too much, too fast, too soon,” state House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading, said of the 38 percent increase in the minimum wage.
Republicans had called on lawmakers to consider other ways to help low-income workers, such as boosting the state’s earned income tax credit. Jones said if businesses were forced to cut jobs, it would hurt the very workers the bill was intended to help.