Editorial: A deserved minimum wage increase

Recent years have been challenging for the working poor, whose incomes never seem to be enough to let them get ahead. One of the reasons is a low minimum wage.

However, some limited relief is on the way when the minimum wage in Connecticut will increase by 75 cents during the next year and a half.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation approved by the General Assembly that hikes the minimum wage in two stages — from the current $8.25 an hour to $8.70 on Jan. 1, 2014, and then to $9 on Jan. 1, 2015.

“This gradual increase over two years is a balanced approach to helping hard-working men and women without adversely impacting the business community,” Malloy said. “Although I believe our nation as a whole should move in this direction, I also think Connecticut needs to lead the way in helping working families.”

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and has not increased since 2009. States and municipalities may approve higher minimum wages.

At today’s minimum wage, a Connecticut resident working 40 hours a week would earn $17,160 annually with no vacations. How is someone supposed to live on that amount, after taxes, with today’s cost of housing, healthcare, transportation, energy, food and utilities?

The coming two-tier increase would lift that annual income to $18,720, a $1,560 difference (or $30 more a week). Still not a lot to live on but an improvement.

Yes, many of the people making minimum wage are youngsters working low-skill jobs on a part-time basis, but there are plenty of other people in this economy whose low-pay positions are impacted by the minimum wage. This includes husbands and wives supplementing their spouses’ salaries.

Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do. While it may impact some small businesses, all the added income will go directly back into the economy.