Governor marks Rhode Island’s minimum wage increase

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo has marked the passage of legislation to raise Rhode Island’s minimum wage with a ceremonial bill signing.

The governor was joined by state lawmakers Monday to mark the occasion.

Raimondo says she’s proud to raise the state’s hourly rate from $9 to $9.60 starting Jan. 1.

“We’re going to give a chance to Rhode Islanders who work hard and it’s just a start, you know. Just even at $9.60, it’s very challenging working full-time at $9.60, it’s a huge challenge but it’s a start. It’s a step in the right direction,” Raimondo said.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says Rhode Island should remain competitive with neighboring states like Massachusetts and Connecticut that have increased wages.

President Barack Obama released a statement Monday, saying:

I commend the Rhode Island Legislature and Governor Raimondo for once again taking action to raise their state’s minimum wage.  Since I first called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage in 2013, 17 states have acted on their own, which will grow the paychecks of millions of American workers.  Many private companies have acted as well, recognizing that paying workers fairly is both good for business and the right thing to do.  This year, more than half of our states guarantee their workers a wage higher than the federal minimum, but despite this progress we still have work to do.  I continue to encourage states, cities, counties and companies to lift their workers’ wages, and I urge Congress to finally do the right thing and give America a raise.

Lawmakers initially considered raising the rate to $10.10. Raimondo supported that increase.

But organizations representing small businesses, the hospitality and food industries and others said they couldn’t afford it.

“If you want to be competitive have a lower cost of doing business. Increase your costs to match their increased costs. So what we should be doing is lowering the burden, lowering the regulations on empoyers in the state and that’s the only way we’re ever going to see rapid growth,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

Leaders of both chambers agreed to amend the proposals.

Warwick Democrats Sen. Erin Lynch and Rep. David Bennett sponsored the bills. They also led past efforts to increase the minimum wage.

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