Minimum wage bill awaits Gov. Patrick’s signature

Obama hails Massachusetts' minimum wage hike bill

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, right, waves at the conclusion of his State of the State address as Mass. Senate President Therese Murray, left, applauds in the House chamber at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Boston. While the economy continues to recover, the governor says many people in the state are still being left behind. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is praising Massachusetts lawmakers for “standing up for working men and women” and approving a bill that would raise the state’s $8 per hour minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2017.

Obama said Thursday he looks forward to Gov. Deval Patrick, a fellow Democrat, signing the bill. He urged Congress to follow Massachusetts’ lead and “lift wages for 28 million Americans by raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10.”

“Under the leadership of Governor Patrick, Massachusetts joins a growing coalition of states, cities and counties that are doing (their) part to make sure no American working full-time has to support a family in poverty,” Obama said in a written statement.

The wage would be the highest state minimum wage in the country. The Massachusetts Senate gave final approval to the measure Thursday, a day after the House signed off on the compromise bill.

Patrick, who is a friend of Obama and helped campaign for his re-election, could sign the bill as early as next week.

The measure would increase the minimum wage gradually, to $9 per hour in 2015, $10 in 2016 and $11 in 2017.

The measure also would gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, from $2.63 per hour to $3.75 per hour, a 31 percent increase and the first since 1999.

A group behind a ballot question to raise the minimum wage has said it may pull the question if Patrick signs the bill.

The ballot question would have automatically linked future increases in the minimum wage to increases in the state’s rate of inflation.

The final, compromise version of the bill dropped that provision, which had been included in an earlier Senate version but was not included in the House version.

Critics have warned that the higher minimum wage could harm small businesses. Republicans had called on lawmakers to instead consider other ways to help low-income workers, such as boosting the state’s earned income tax credit.

“It’s too much, too fast, too soon,” House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading, said of the 38 percent increase in the minimum wage during the House debate Wednesday.

Senate President Therese Murray defended the higher wage, however, saying that adjusting for inflation the minimum wage in 1968 would be worth $10.72 today. The Plymouth Democrat said the bill also lowers costs for businesses through an updated unemployment insurance rating table and multi-year rate freeze.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer said the higher wage is needed.

“There should be no connection between the words working and poor,” the Barre Democrat said. “If you work hard for a living, you deserve to be compensated fairly and adequately.”

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