BOSTON – The minimum wage in Massachusetts would increase from $8 an hour to $11 an hour by 2017 under a deal announced Wednesday night by top House and Senate Democrats. The deal would give Massachusetts the highest statewide minimum wage in the country while also reforming unemployment insurance to help employers with stable payrolls save money.
The deal would phase in the minimum wage hike by $1 a year starting in January 2015, when the wage would increase to $9 an hour.
The bill also includes an overhaul of the state’s unemployment insurance system, adjusting the rates paid by businesses to cover the cost of benefits for the jobless by smoothing increases to avoid sharp spikes in rates and rewarding employers with stable workforces.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill when it meets today. The House is expected to take up the conference report as soon as next week.
The compromise excluded a Senate-backed provision that would have indexed future increases in the minimum wage to inflation, a measure that proponents argued was necessary for wages to keep pace over time with the rising cost of living in Massachusetts.
The House earlier this year rejected indexing, and proposed to raise the minimum wage to $10.50, in line with what a ballot petition that could still go before voters. The ballot petitioners also want to see the wage base indexed to inflation, and it remains to be seen whether the compromise bill with a higher wage will be enough to convince organizers to drop the ballot drive.
The final bill, which the governor is expected to sign if it clears the House and Senate, was negotiated by Ways and Means Chairmen Rep. Brian Dempsey of Haverhill and Sen. Stephen Brewer of Barre along with fellow Democrats Rep. Thomas Conroy and Sen. Daniel Wolf.