Senate president: Minimum wage hike sure to come before legislature or voters

In Fight for $15, News by News Desk

State House News Service:

The minimum wage in Massachusetts stands at $11 and no further increases are scheduled, but Senate President Stanley Rosenberg says the Bay State will “absolutely” see a $15 minimum wage law, or at least a statewide vote on it.

“If it doesn’t happen in the Legislature, it will be on the ballot,” Rosenberg said during an appearance on WGBH. “That’s the way it’s going to be.”

While many lawmakers favor a $15 wage floor, bills boosting the minimum wage to that level have not surfaced for debate in the House or the Senate, where a consensus on the issue has not formed.

Under the last minimum wage law, the wage floor rose annually in three, one-dollar increments from $8 to its current $11.

The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, which used the ballot to pass an earned sick time law in 2014, is weighing campaigns for potential 2018 initiative petitions calling for a $15 minimum wage and paid family and medical leave.

Rosenberg said people “have been increasingly using the ballot as leverage to get the Legislature to do what it should be doing,” but he said he would prefer to have the Legislature tackle the issues, noting Democrats have super-majorities in both branches capable of overruling Gov. Charlie Baker if necessary.

“We can save people a lot of time, effort and money by just focusing and doing these things in the Legislature,” Rosenberg said.

The Senate last session passed a paid family and medical leave bill, and the latest iterations of the proposals are in committee awaiting public hearings.

Business groups tend to have a “critical eye” on the matter, mindful of implementation and cost impacts, while activists are “more expansive in their view of what is possible,” said Rosenberg, who couldn’t recall details of the bill approved by the Senate last year and said there are many different proposals.

“The whole point of doing it in the Legislature is you can balance the interests, come up with a good plan that we can afford, a good implementation strategy and getting everybody together on the same page,” said Rosenberg.

By Michael P. Norton