Rhode Island lawmakers have approved legislation that will raise the state’s minimum wage.
The Ocean State will increase its hourly wage from $9 to $9.60 starting on Jan. 1, 2016. According to NECN, the increase will be Rhode Island’s fourth minimum wage hike in four years.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, D-R.I., signed the bill into law on Monday.
“We’re going to give a chance to Rhode Islanders who work hard and it’s just a start, you know. Just even at $9.60, you know, it’s very challenging working full-time at $9.60, it’s still a huge challenge but it’s a start. It’s a step in the right direction,” Raimondo said during the bill signing ceremony.
In a statement, President Obama praised Rhode Island’s decision. “Since I first called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage in 2013, 17 states have acted on their own, which will grow the paychecks of millions of American workers,” he said.
“This year, more than half of our states guarantee their workers a wage higher than the federal minimum, but despite this progress we still have work to do,” Obama added. “I continue to encourage states, cities, counties and companies to lift their workers’ wages, and I urge Congress to finally do the right thing and give America a raise.”
Opponents say that a minimum wage hike places an additional burden on employers, particularly small businesses, and that it will reduce the number of available jobs.
“What we should be doing is lowering the burden, lowering the regulations on employers in the state and that’s the only way we’re ever going to see rapid growth,” Mike Stenhouse, the CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, told WPRI.
James Sherk, the senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation, said that “despite good intentions, raising the minimum wage hurts low income workers.”
“Economists Jeffrey Clemens and Michael Wither of the University of California, San Diego, recently released a study tracking the earnings of low-income workers after the 2007 minimum wage increase. They found their earnings dropped by an average of $150 a month. The higher wages caused employers to reduce hiring. While the pay of workers with jobs rose, many less-skilled workers became unable to find work. The net result was to make life harder for disadvantaged workers,” Sherk said.