The Massachusetts state Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour and ensure future automatic increases tied to inflation. If it were to pass the state House and be signed into law by the governor, it would be the highest state minimum wage in the country.
The bill passed the Senate 32 to 7, but while state House leadership has voiced support for raising the wage, some have warned that they may not back the bill without other incentives for businesses. The House could wait until January to take it up.
The bill would also require the state’s wage to stay at least 50 cents above the federal floor, which has stood at $7.25 for the past four years, and an amendment would make sure the minimum wage for tipped workers would be at least half of the state minimum. The $11 wage would top California, which became the state with the highest wage in September when it approved a hike to $10 an hour.
Without state House approval of the raise, Massachusetts advocates say they have gathered enough signatures to put a raise to $10.50 an hour on the ballot in November 2014.
Federal lawmakers have pushed for a minimum wage hike for the whole country, with President Obama recently coming out in favor of a $10.10 an hour wage, something that Democrats introduced in March but was unanimously shot down by Republicans. If the wage had kept up with inflation since the 1960s, it would be over $10 an hour today. Republicans have balked at a raise despite the fact that many of them voted for one under President George W. Bush.
But while Congressional action stalls, states and local communities have pushed forward on their own. Voters in New Jersey approved a dollar raise and indexing future hikes to inflation on November 5. A measure to raise the minimum wage in SeaTac, a town near Seattle’s airport in Washington state, to $15 an hour looks set to eke out a victory. Voters approved a raise in three other communities in the 2012 election. In fact, when given the chance, voters almost always approve raises by substantial majorities. A federal hike enjoys strong support, with one poll showing 80 percent in favor of a raise to $10.10, including two-thirds of Republicans, and another showing 76 percent support a $9 wage, including nearly 60 percent of Republicans.
Supporters are now pushing for hikes in Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Organizers in Washington, DC are collecting signatures to put a wage of $12.50 an hour on the 2014 ballot, and a Democratic gubernatorial candidate announced a proposal to raise the state’s wage to $9.25 an hour on Monday.