Higher minimum wage could bring negative effects

More money per hour could lead to a spike in prices

BOSTON (WWLP) – Low-wage workers should be pleased about the increase in pay, but some western Massachusetts lawmakers believe there will be negative effects.

“Today, I’m going to sign a bill that raises our state’s minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2017,” said Governor Deval Patrick during a bill signing ceremony Thursday morning.

Beginning in January, low-wage workers will see a gradual pay raise from the now $8 per hour to $11 over three years. Coalition groups wanted minimum wage tied to inflation, but state lawmakers ultimately decided against it.

“It is a little compromise and I would’ve enjoyed it being hooked to inflation so we wouldn’t have to go through the process of doing this again, but I guess somewhat accept a little compromise there,” said Jack Livramento of Raise Up Massachusetts.

Tipped workers will see their first increase since 1999, from $2.63 per hour to $3.75 by 2017. The gradual minimum wage increase aims to help small businesses adapt to the change, but some restaurant owners in Agawam are already voicing concerns.

“Sure, the minimum wage will be going up, but so will the cost of living. Especially in my district, I’ve heard from a number of businesses who have already jacked up their prices to accommodate the raise in the minimum wage,” said Rep. Nick Boldyga of Southwick.

The new law does help employers by continuing to freeze their unemployment insurance rates for another three years.

Low-wage workers can expect to earn $9 per hour beginning this January.

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