Senate President Murray proposes $11 minimum wage
Senate President Therese Murray
Senate President Therese Murray will put a bill before the Senate next week to increase the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2016 and index future increases to inflation, according to a senior Senate aide.
Murray, who identified the minimum wage as a priority this session, broached the topic during a closed-door Democratic caucus on Thursday during which she asked whether the members had an appetite to take up the bill before the Legislature recesses next Wednesday for the holidays. Formal sessions will resume in January.
According to the aide, the bill will come out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Friday and be introduced during an informal session. It will call for the state’s $8 an hour minimum wage to climb $1 a year starting on Jan. 1, 2014 until it reaches $11 an hour.
A source said it had not yet been determined whether the Senate would debate the bill next Tuesday or Wednesday.
Murray this year has deflected questions about progress on a minimum wage bill, saying she was waiting for the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, which is reviewing such bills, to make its recommendation.
The bill will also propose to tie future increases in the base wage rate to the Consumer Price Index for the Northeast. State law would also be amended to ensure that the Massachusetts minimum wage is always at least 50 cents higher than the national minimum. Current law says the state’s minimum wage must remain 10 cents higher than the federal $7.25 minimum wage.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who was informed Thursday of Murray’s decision to act on a bill before the winter recess, has expressed a desire to couple a minimum wage hike with reforms to the unemployment insurance system to balance the impact on businesses.
The bill that Murray plans to advance to the floor does not address unemployment insurance reforms, but senior aides say there is debate among senators about how to address wages for tipped employees, and that could be addressed either in the Ways and Means bill or on the floor through the amendment process.
Sen. Daniel Wolf, who has been working on a minimum wage bill as co-chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development with Rep. Thomas Conroy, will lead the effort in the Senate to pass the wage hike.
Proponents of a proposed 2014 ballot question are pushing to raise the minimum wage to $10.50.
Proponents of raising the wage say its value has eroded over time and would be $10.58 today if it had kept up with inflation. Critics of minimum wage hikes have argued that it makes it tough for employers to hire new workers.