With a strong push from Senate President Therese Murray, the Massachusetts Senate voted to increase the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $11 by 2016. Meanwhile, House Speaker Robert DeLeo plans to wait until January to consider the bill because he wants to link it to changes in the state’s unemployment insurance system. Indeed, lawmakers should be open to DeLeo’s plan to combine a wage increase with some common-sense reforms that would cut costs for businesses. But a minimum wage hike should be a priority in its own right.
The current minimum wage of $8 per hour, which has been in place since 2008, adds up to $16,704 annually. Because the value of the minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with inflation, a full-time minimum wage worker now makes $5,000 a year less than in 1968, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. The Senate bill would restore the minimum wage to the purchasing power it would have if inflation were factored in.