A protest outside the Legislative Office Building last week. mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org
Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Executive Director Joe DeLong

Connecticut cities and towns could face as much as $24 million in increased costs by 2022 if lawmakers raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, estimates from state analysts show.

The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis also warned that the wage hike could add nearly $7 million in expenses to child care providers who participate in the state’s Care4Kids program.

Meanwhile, municipal advocates cautioned that unless legislators are prepared to bolster state aid and carve out some new exceptions to the minimum wage standard, the increase would exacerbate problems for already lean local budgets.

“Municipalities only have a couple of options,” said Betsy Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns. “They can increase taxes or cut services. There is no Door No. 3.”

The Labor and Public Employees Committee has approved two bills to raise the minimum wage gradually from $10.10 to $15 per hour over three years. Gov. Ned Lamont has a competing proposal  to make the same jump over four years.

Nonpartisan analysts released four projections on how the minimum wage hike would affect Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns.

  • Large cities, with populations greater than 100,000, would face $800,000 to $1 million in added costs.
  • Medium-sized cities with populations between 50,000 and 80,000 would face $400,000 to $600,000 in additional expenses.
  • Small cities with populations between 30,000 and 50,000 would face $100,000 to $300,000 in added costs.
  • Small towns with less than 20,000 people would face $50,000 or less in increased expenses.

A CT Mirror analysis using OFA’s cost estimates, and population estimates from the state Office of Policy and Management found there will be an aggregate impact of the wage hike of up to $23.9 million. Connecticut has five large cities, 14 medium-sized cities, 36 small cities and 114 small towns.

All of the projections are based largely on mandated wage hikes. For example, a municipal employee earning $12 per hour would have to be paid $15.

OFA also acknowledged the “wage compression” factor, but its analysis does not attempt to quantify the impact.

“Wage compression,” in this case, involves employees currently earning $15 per hour or slightly more. If the minimum wage is raised to $15, employers might need to raise pay for workers already at or slightly above this threshold to avoid turnover.

“Municipalities only have a couple of options. They can increase taxes or cut services. There is no Door No. 3.”

Betsy Gara
Executive Director, Connecticut Council of Small Towns.

Joe DeLong, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said the $15-per-hour minimum wage requirement could harm a wide range of municipal programs — if cities and towns aren’t granted additional state aid and provided exceptions to the wage limit for some jobs.

DeLong said many programs that serve local youth, particularly during the summer, are vulnerable. This is unfortunate, he said, because they not only provide youth development, but also serve as informal day-care for parents when children aren’t in school.

If cities and towns don’t receive help to cover the added costs, “they are going to price [these programs] at a level where the people who need them the most aren’t going to be able to afford them,” DeLong said. 

Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven (right) and Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury (left) Thomas Breen / New Haven Independent

Democratic leaders of the Labor and Public Employees Committee said the new estimates demonstrate the need to boost funding for municipalities.

“We have to look at this holistically,” said Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury. “If we solve a problem here and create a problem there, that doesn’t work.”

Both Kushner and the committee’s other co-chairwoman, Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, said the legislature should consider raising more revenue to ensure a minimum wage hike doesn’t hurt groups in need.

Over time, Porter added, a minimum wage hike would stimulate the state’s economy.  “We know that wage growth equals economic growth, and too many people are living paycheck-to-paycheck,” she said.

But the panel’s top House Republican noted that a minimum wage hike would translate into higher local property taxes and fewer services.

“This is going to be an enormous unfunded mandate on towns and cities across the state,” said Rep. Joe Polletta, R-Watertown. “It’s going to hit families.”

Polletta said many communities that rely on high school and college students to perform summer jobs at low wages may choose to scrap programs rather than raise taxes.

“We have to look at this holistically. If we solve a problem here and create a problem there, that doesn’t work.”

Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury

Nonpartisan analysts also warned that the minimum wage hike could pose challenges for social services.

Family child care providers in the state’s network could face up to $6.9 million in extra costs by 2022.

And while the analysts cautioned that raising the minimum wage could reduce participation in assistance programs with income eligibility limits, they did not offer a specific change in enrollment.

Some lawmakers and social services advocates have expressed fears for months that a $15-per-hour minimum wage could push some parents off HUSKY A, the Medicaid-funded program that provides health insurance for working poor adults with children, out of the program.

Many of those who’ve expressed concerns have said the solution isn’t to block a minimum wage hike, but to increase state funding for HUSKY to broaden eligibility rules.

Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven (file photo) Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CT Mirror

“Nobody will even speculate, which is kind of frustrating and scary, because I want everybody to know exactly what we do when we do it, and who are we affecting,” Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, a longtime co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said of OFA analysis. 

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour still doesn’t give you a livable wage in Connecticut, which is so sad,” she added. “We’re arguing over something that we should figure out in favor of the people that need these services and need this income.”

Karen Siegel, a public health policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, pointed to a recent change in Medicaid eligibility requirements that has left many without health insurance. She worried the minimum wage hike would do the same.

“Our position has been that we absolutely should raise the minimum wage and simultaneously need to consider the impact on families, especially the impact on child care subsidies and on HUSKY enrollment,” she said. “For low income families, there just isn’t another option that’s affordable.”

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

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  1. This was truly hard to read. Every time these advocates are presented with the destructive results of their socialist policies, they want to “solve” them by raising more revenue. NEVER cutting something. They are like arsonists who race to put out the fires they started.

    1. In the last hour I have met a couple from Belarus, a country located between eastern Poland and western Russia. I was told by this couple in English that in communist Russia, where the government controls wages, an engineer or doctor make less than a brick layer or custodian. When you travel across the border, it is immediately evident you are in Russia: the houses are decrepit, the people sit and do nothing on their front steps. Not in Connecticut! Not possible for this to happen?!! When Democrats tell you how much your employees will be paid, when they give them 12 weeks off every year with no recourse by the employer you are in Russian territory. When you have poor, corrupt cities totally dependent on state aid, welfare and other programs breeding dependency, you are in Russian territory. When Democrat legislators pull strings on businesses like they are puppets, we are in Russia. If you don’t believe me or if the Mirror refuses to publish this description of Connecticut, my beloved state, then TELL ME WHERE I AM WRONG.

  2. Don’t these people pay attention to what has been happening to businesses in areas jacking their minimum wage? Hours get cut, employees get cut, some businesses close, and so on.

    If you don’t believe me, ask AOC what happened to her former employer’s business under the jacked up minimum wage. Spoiler alert: they closed and 150 people lost their jobs.

    How about Seattle? “The University of Washington’s School of Public Policy and Governance found that the higher minimum wage led to significant job declines and actually left the poorest worst off in the city, the Washington Post reported. As a result, the study said, the city’s average worker lost $125 a month thanks to the minimum wage hike.”

  3. Wait, what? You mean another progressive idea has unintended negative consequences and represents an unfunded mandate to many?

    I wish our legislators had more interest in growing businesses and keeping taxpayers in the state than they do their half-baked, social engineering fantasies.

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