Surrounded by supporters at the locally owned Red Hen Bakery, Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed into law legislation phasing in an increase in the state's minimum wage from the current $8.73 per hour to $10.50 per hour by 2018.
Gov. Shumlin and other New England Governors appeared with President Obama earlier this year in Connecticut to call for a national increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. However, noting Congressional inaction on that proposal, Gov. Shumlin said, "States like Vermont realize that working people can't support their families on the current minimum wage, and we're moving ahead to do the right thing on our own."
Vermont is one of at least 26 states and the District of Columbia that either currently have a minimum wage higher than the national minimum, or have approved a higher rate that is scheduled to take effect on a date certain.
The Governor said the phased-in approach, which is in line with what some neighboring states are also doing, softens the impact of the wage increase on businesses. The Vermont rate will climb to $9.60 in 2016, $10 in 2017 and finally $10.50 in 2018, and be indexed to inflation in subsequent years. The rate in Connecticut will climb to $10.10 in 2017; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick have called for similar increases in their states.
"I want to thank so many Vermont business owners who worked with us to find a compromise on raising the minimum wage, and lawmakers who recognized that working Vermonters deserve a fair paycheck," Gov. Shumlin said.
The Governor said that working women will benefit from the increase, with 60 percent of minimum wage workers being women. Nationally, over 88 percent of minimum wage workers are over age 20, with the average age being 35. Nearly 30 percent are parents.
"These are working Vermonters, raising families on the lowest wage possible, and they deserve better," Gov. Shumlin said. "And raising the wage for the lowest paid will spark increased economic activity and security that will benefit the economy as a whole."
Many businesses currently pay minimum wages that exceed the federal rate. Several cities and more than half of the states have raised their minimum wage above the federal rate.