Date: Fri 10-Apr-1998

Date: Fri 10-Apr-1998

Publication: Bee

Author: CURT

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Governor Rowland Says He'll Sign Minimum Wage Bill

HARTFORD (AP) -- Gov. John G. Rowland said last week he will support a bill

now before the House to raise the minimum wage a dollar by the year 2000.

Rowland said he will sign the bill into law if the House does not change the

version the Senate passed April 2 on a 27-to-8 vote.

Connecticut's minimum wage is $5.18 an hour, three cents higher than the

federal minimum wage. The bill would bump it up 50 cents next January 1, and

another 50 cents on January 1, 2000.

Rowland said he would prefer that the federal government handle the minimum

wage, but he said he thinks business can afford the dollar hike and it will

not cause any economic hardship.

"The economy is so robust here in Connecticut right now, that that's probably

driving the minimum wage. In most cases, employers are paying far over the

minimum wage because there's such a need for skilled and unskilled labor,"

Rowland said.

House Speaker Thomas Ritter said he and other leaders will decide when to

bring the bill up for a vote.

Ritter, D-Hartford, said he does not think the bill would be changed in the


By deciding to support the bill, Rowland has deflated the Democrats' chance to

turn the minimum wage into an election issue.

"Thank God for election years," Ritter said.

The governor opposed a state wage hike two years ago, and Senate Democrats _

then in the minority -- caused a work slowdown in the waning days of the 1996

session when the GOP failed to consider the proposal.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Barbara Kennelly's campaign called Rowland's

change of heart a good thing for working families, but characterized it as an

example of his adoption of Kennelly's issues.