Democrats aren’t the only ones who think Rhode Island’s minimum wage should be higher.
The Rhode Island Senate voted 31-6 on Wednesday to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 to $8 an hour on Jan. 1, which would be the second increase in as many years. Massachusetts’ minimum wage is already $8, while Connecticut’s is $8.25; the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009.
Among the 31 senators who voted for the $8 minimum were two of the chamber’s five Republicans: Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, and Sen. Chris Ottiano, R-Portsmouth. They’re not the first Republicans to back a hike; Govs. Lincoln Almond and Don Carcieri both approved increases on their watch.
Two Democrats broke ranks with the rest of their party and voted against raising the wage to $8: Sens. Marc Cote, D-Woonsocket, and Leo Raptakis, D-Coventry. Notably, increasing the minimum wage was not part of Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed’s economic-development package earlier this year.
The Senate bill sponsored by Erin Lynch, D-Warwick, was referred to the House Labor Committee, which held a hearing Feb. 5 on Warwick Rep. David Bennett’s bill to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 next year.
Rhode Island’s first minimum wage was 90 cents an hour in 1956, which would be $7.69 in today’s dollars, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI inflation calculator. In 2013 dollars, the value of the minimum wage has averaged roughly $8.20 over the last half-century; it peaked at $10.69 in 1968 and bottomed out at $6.79 in 1995. Here’s a chart showing the nominal and inflation-adjusted wage over time:
An earlier version of this post incorrectly said there are six Republicans in the Rhode Island Senate; while there are six members of the Republican caucus, one of them, Sen. Edward O’Neill, is an independent.