Sen. Raptakis legislation would raise minimum wage

Legislation would raise minimum wage to $11.10 by January 2021 and RI would join 20 other states with automatic CPI increases

STATEHOUSE – State Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich, East Greenwich) will be reintroducing legislation that ties any future increase in the hourly minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index of the Northeast Region.  Senator Raptakis has introduced similar legislation for the last several years.

“This proposal will provide wage raises that are needed by individuals earning minimum wage while ensuring that businesses are not overburdened with a dramatic increase that would cause financial hardship for our small businesses,” said Senator Raptakis.

The bill would also raise the state’s minimum wage to $11.10 per hour by January 2021, giving a 60 cent boost from $10.50 per hour.  The wage increase is what the state’s minimum wage would be if it were tied to the CPI as Senator Raptakis has proposed in the past since 2007, which has passed the Senate previously.  According to the bill, starting in 2022, the minimum wage would be tied to the CPI, which is released by the US Department of Labor, giving employees and employers nine months to prepare for the minimum wage increase based on 2021’s CPI, which is released in March.

“The state’s minimum wage, and in turn people’s ability to provide for themselves and their families, should not be treated as a political football every year by competing interests.  By tying the minimum wage to the CPI, everyone will have a predictable model to prepare and plan for future wage increases,” said Senator Raptakis.

Senator Raptakis believes the only responsible way to prepare employees and business owners for minimum wage increases is by linking the raise to certain economic data points such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Northeast region.  The CPI is determined by the United States Department of Labor Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

Today there are over 20 states that already use the CPI, or other economic indexes and data points, to determine state minimum wage increases.

“I have never and I am not now arguing about the fairness of our state’s current minimum wage.  From 2007 to 2012, the state’s minimum wage was stagnant at $7.40, which is completely unacceptable.  If my legislation had been enacted in 2007, the minimum wage in 2012 would have been $9.58 rather than stuck at $7.40 per hour,” said Senator Raptakis. “We all know what the economy is like and how difficult it is for everyone to get by. The people doing minimum wage jobs — jobs that absolutely need to be done to keep many businesses going — need to earn a fair wage.”

“That being said, we must raise our minimum wage through careful analysis of our economic data.  Calculating the state’s minimum wage using federal economic data is the fairest way to ensure our workers and our small businesses are being treated equitably,” added Senator Raptakis.  “We should not be raising our minimum wage to mirror and compete with Connecticut and Massachusetts because their economies are quite different than Rhode Island’s.  We must take into account our business climate before we set what the minimum wage should be.”

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