Chart: Bipartisan Senate group backs $8 minimum wage in RI

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.

11 thoughts on “Chart: Bipartisan Senate group backs $8 minimum wage in RI

  1. I honestly don’t understand. The only ways I can think of that this makes sense is either the vast majority of the RI Senate actively avoids acquiring information about issues before they vote, or malice. We’re well past the point where you can write these things off as a mistake; this is intentional economic sabotage.

  2. Since Rhode Island has had a personal income tax the income of the private sector employees in real worth has been declining. How about for the General Assembly and Senate try a novel idea. Cut spending and taxes and see how many new jobs will be created that are paid on the books, not under the table. How many Rhode Islanders have a minimum wage job so they can get WIC, Section 8, AFDC, RIte Care, and SNAP or part of these programs. Then their real job is paid under the table to save the company in taxes. One person told me he was paid off the books $45K to save on taxes. He received the benefit of all of the above. How many of the so-called land scapers are paid on the books?

    • um, yeah, been there, done that, seen it fail. We’ve been cutting taxes, especially for the rich, for the last 10 years in this state and, WOW, guess what, the jobs are not materializing. I wonder why that is?

      • Fish, you are shortsighted. When you decide to work in the private sector then you have a say until that you are a civil servant. Learn to serve and be civil. The taxes are too high that is why no ethical company will establish businesses in Rhode Island. Public sector employees are overcompensated in Rhode Island. People who can read a balance sheet will not even consider Rhode Island.

    • Mr. Fish, You are what we in the military call a LIFER. A Lifer stands for Lazy Incompentent Fool (the vulgar word) Expecting Retirement or Lazy Incompentent Fool (the vulgar word) Escaping Reality. For all you public sector pukes including public school teachers this MEANS YOU! Decide which is you a useless piece of trash or delusional clown, like the West Warwick Fire Inspector.

  3. To all you right wing haters out there….what is wrong with paying people $8.00 when you need at least $20.00 to make a living wage….the only people who are against this are businesses who could care less about how hard it is to try to make it….low wages, no benefits, lousy working conditions…these is the anthem of the republican better business bureau…remember by definition capitalism maximizes profits at the expense of the workers and gives the monetary rewards to the few rich at the very top….even Henry Ford knew that and he was no friend of the working man and woman!!!!

    • Bob, because most Rhode Islanders who work for minimum wage are not worth the $8 an hour. Most Rhode Islanders I have met lack integrity, ethics, do not grasp the time value of money, or have the concept of how markets work.
      I don’t use Rhode Island companies. When I need a plumber, electrician I always call companies in Mass.
      Does this make sense?

    • I’d say it’s a lot easier for a person to make ends meet with a job that pays $7.25/hour than not having a job paying $8/hour. On the other hand, my economic models aren’t as sophisticated as the ones the Senate uses; I can’t figure out how to use magic to make the sums work.

  4. You’re all missing the point — unemployment. If you can’t get a job, it doesn’t matter if the minimum wage is $7.75 or $8 — you’re not getting it. Unemployment in RI has gone down only because people are giving up looking for work. Our labor force participation is as low as when women routinely worked as housewives. Raising the minimum wage is not going to help develop new entry level jobs. As far as you go, Ed, for the first time in my life, I’m saying “Why don’t you just leave the state?” You certainly bring down the level of any reasonable discussion by disparaging people you don’t know and obviously don’t care about.

    • Zephyr, I am just stating what I have observed in the work ethic of the people in Rhode Island. Again, I will not use Rhode Island tradesmen to do work. They are consistently trying to get overcharge for extra items.

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