State lawmakers held a public hearing Thursday on a series of bills to benefit workers in Connecticut. One effort would increase the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour by 2022, while another would mandate paid family leave.
The state recently increased its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour -- among the highest in the nation.
But Democratic Senate President Martin Looney said he thinks it's not high enough.
"Raising a sufficient minimum wage in the state is not at all a luxury. It is not a mere convenience. It is critically important for thousands upon thousands of Connecticut families," Looney said. "For parents trying to make ends meet, for single mothers working two or three jobs just to provide basic necessities for their children, there may be no more important, pressing issue than earning a fair and adequate wage."
Looney also said people shouldn’t have to face economic ruin when presented with serious family needs. That’s why he backs the push for paid leave, too.
But Eric Gjede, from the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said that creating new, expensive mandates for employers would only drive up labor costs and hurt workers in the end. He said a better approach is to encourage them to do it voluntarily.
"We are doing these things on our own when we’re allowed to succeed. But when we’re forced to do things through state mandates, like being proposed here, money just doesn’t grow on trees," said Gjede. "We have to find other things to cut. And that usually means employee hours, that means benefits, and things like that.”
But Looney said there’s no evidence that a gradual increase in the minimum wage would be harmful to business.