Shumlin calls for minimum wage hike
MONTPELIER -- Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin called on lawmakers Monday to raise the state minimum wage but details about how it will be implemented have yet to be finalized.
Shumlin is proposing an incremental increase to $10.10 by 2017.
"I feel very strongly that it's imperative to raise the minimum wage in Vermont to what the President has recommended," Shumlin said at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier.
Shumlin emphasized Vermont's low unemployment levels and job creation as indicators of a broad-based economic recovery.
"We're still seeing too few folks in the middle class and working Vermonters able to enjoy the benefits of that recovery," Shumlin said.
Some business groups, like Vermont Grocers' Association, say it's not the right step to increase incomes for Vermonters. VGA President Jim Harrison said his organization does not support the wage hike.
Harrison said better pay is a good goal, but "we can't do it just by artificially raising the minimum wage."
Increasing the minimum wage might affect the types of benefits and salary employers can offer to full-time employees, according to Harrison.
He said growing the economy with more incentives for businesses would spur job creation and be more helpful to workers.
Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith said lawmakers would begin hearing testimony in coming weeks on a house bill proposing a $12.50 minimum wage.
Smith said details such as a timeline for the increases or even the minimum wage rate itself are not finalized yet.
"I think we all agree that minimum wage should be increased. The question is what number that's going to be," said Smith, a Democrat from Morristown.
In Vermont, a full-time minimum wage worker annually earns $18,000 and would earn an additional $3,100 per year in 2017 under Shumlin's proposal, according to a news release from the governor's office.
Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama spotlighted minimum wage increases during a rally in Connecticut. Shumlin attended, along with the governors from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Vermont's current minimum wage is $8.73. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
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