A report released Tuesday by the advocacy group Connecticut Voices for Children said the state's current minimum wage of $8.25 an hour hasn't kept up with the rising cost of living in the state over the past 30 years.
Timed to coincide with a General Assembly committee's hearings on a proposed minimum-wage increase, the report found that low-paid workers are making about 9 percent less today than they were in 1979, when wages are adjusted for inflation. High-wage earners, on the other hand, have seen a more than 50 percent spike in their pay during the same period when inflation is taken into account.
"If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since the late 1960s, it would be more than $10.40 today," said Paul Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, in a statement.
"The minimum wage should be a stepping stone for Connecticut workers, not quicksand," added Jamey Bell, executive director of Connecticut Voices for Children, one of several people who testified before the legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee.
House Bill 5291 would raise the state's minimum wage to $9.75 in two stages. It also would index the wage to inflation.
Douglas Hall, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network, told legislators that raising the minimum wage would directly help 106,000 workers in the first year, increasing their total wages by about $122 million.
"This is smart legislation," he said in testimony accessed over the Internet on the CT-N network. "It helps struggling families."
The bill is being opposed by business groups, who see a rise in the minimum wage as having a negative effect on the economic climate of Connecticut at a time when jobs are just starting to be created.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association opposes the bill, which it estimates could cost some larger restaurants $100,000 or more a year.