BOSTON (State House News Service) – The minimum wage would increase to $10.50 an hour over three years under a long-awaited plan to be unveiled by House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Thursday that the Winthrop Democrat said would be combined with efforts to reduce unemployment insurance costs on business.
DeLeo, who will outline his proposal in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning, said addressing both issues together would help business continue to create jobs while giving workers at the bottom of the income ladder a “fair wage.”
“It is a careful balancing act and one that involves improving conditions for workers at the bottom of our wage scale while creating a climate that permits businesses to create jobs,” DeLeo plans to say, according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by the News Service.
The speaker’s plan would raise the current $8 an hour minimum wage to $9 an hour on July 1, $10 an hour in 2015 and $10.50 in 2016. Unlike the Senate-approved bill that would raise the wage to $11, DeLeo said he will not propose to link future wage increases to inflation in the consumer price index.
The minimum wage for tipped workers, which hasn’t changed since 1999 when it was at $2.63, would also increase under the speaker’s plan, but also fall under what was adopted in the Senate. While the Senate passed a wage for tipped-wage workers set at half the regular minimum, DeLeo’s proposal would phase in increases to $3 in the first year rising to $3.35 in 2015 and peaking at $3.75.
In additional to freezing unemployment insurance rates this year to protect employers from a spike in premiums, DeLeo plans to call for adjustments to the ratings table to lower the unemployment insurance tax burden on most employers and switch from a one-year to a three-year average that he says will “shield” companies from short-term fluctuations in payments due to employment trends.
DeLeo said the House bill, for which he gave no timetable for action, would also address public employees and seasonal employees by closing “loopholes” for school-based employees and retirees who receive both pensions and UI benefits.
“When implemented, these changes will improve the overall business climate in Massachusetts,” he plans to say.
While the speaker plans to use his speech to address the minimum wage and unemployment insurance reform, which have been matters of much anticipation, he is also expected to endorse legislation that would authorize and fund an expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston.
“Let’s capture the game-changing events, such as BIO International, that have come to define the collaborative business strategy shaping today’s economic ecosystem. The convention center and our base of hotel rooms need to expand,” he plans to say.
He will also ask the business community for their help in developing solutions to improve in-patient and out-patient psychiatric care.