Rhode Island Senate OKs minimum wage hike

Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Rhode Island's minimum wage would go up 25 cents to $8 per hour next year under legislation approved Wednesday by the state Senate.

The state's minimum wage is now $7.75, compared with the federal minimum of $7.25, while the minimum wage is $8 in Massachusetts and $8.25 in Connecticut.

Supporters of the raise said many Rhode Islanders are forced to work multiple minimum-wage jobs to afford rent, food and transportation. An extra quarter an hour — or about $10 a week — might help make ends meet, they said.

"You try to live on it," Sen. Harold Metts, D-Providence, challenged his fellow senators.

Lawmakers approved a 35-cent increase last year, the first time the minimum wage had been raised since 2007.

The bill passed on a 31-6 vote. Opponents including Sen. Dawson Hodgson, R-North Kingstown, warned that the increase could burden small businesses and lead them to hire fewer workers. He said an increase of a quarter is unlikely to do much to ease the financial challenges facing low-income workers and could end up hurting the people supporters want to help.

"The people who make the minimum wage are going to make more but conceivably there will be fewer of them," he said.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.