House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan’s proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage by $1.50 over two years could give Connecticut the highest minimum in the nation, a distinction certain to fuel opposition to the idea by business interests and some legislators.
But the proposal by the Democratic leader and congressional candidate to index the wage to the cost of living puts him in the same camp as House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, and the Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination, Mitt Romney.
Romney has retreated from several moderate to liberal stances he took as governor of Massachusetts, but his position on indexing the minimum wage is not among them. He reiterated his position Wednesday, drawing fire from rival Newt Gingrich and the conservative Club for Growth.
“I haven’t changed my thoughts on that,” Romney said.
Cafero, who opposes raising the minimum wage this year, said this week that indexing is an idea he probably could support.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, reacted coolly to Donovan’s idea of raising the wage above $9 this year. With one eye on what other states are doing, the governor doesn’t like what he sees.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the state’s minimum hourly wage of $8.25 already is one of the highest in the country, trailing only Washington ($9.04), Oregon ($8.80) and Vermont ($8.46) — three of the 10 states that automatically index their minimum to the cost of living.
Under the proposal Donovan made this week, it would rise to $9 in July, a month before the Democratic primary for Congress, and $9.75 in July 2013. If inflation remains low, a rate of $9.75 in 2013 could be the highest in the nation.
The federal minimum wage is a creature of the Great Depression, adopted in 1938. It effectively sets the minimum in the nine states that either have no minimum or set a minimum below the federal standard.
Twenty-three states equal the federal standard, including New York and New Jersey. Connecticut is one of 18 that exceed it, five of which are in New England: Vermont ($8.46), Massachusetts ($8.00), Maine ($7.50) and Rhode Island ($7.40). New Hampshire is at the federal minimum of $7.25.
If the wage goes up in Connecticut this year, expect it to be less generous than $9. But indexing, depending on how it is written, could have legs.