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February 11, 2014

House official wants Mass. to take minimum-wage lead

CAMBRIDGE — With the state Senate on record in support of increasing the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2016, a key House Democrat told party members over the weekend that he hopes Massachusetts will have the highest minimum wage in the country by the end of the year.

“I am the author on the House side, as we speak, of a minimum wage bill that I want to bring to the floor next month, and I hope for the end of this year to have the highest minimum wage in the United States of America, right here in Massachusetts,” said Rep. Tom Conroy, a Wayland Democrat. “This is a concrete way that I’m trying to fight on behalf of all those folks who are struggling on the margins.”

Conroy, who abandoned a brief U.S. Senate campaign in 2011 and is now running for state treasurer, is the House chairman of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development charged with developing minimum wage and unemployment insurance legislation.

His comments came as business and labor groups turn their attention to the House, which has yet to roll out plans for tackling both issues.

The minimum wage in Massachusetts, a high-income and high cost-of-living state, has slipped below neighboring states like Connecticut and Vermont. Beacon Hill Democrats have been saying for months that low-wage workers need a higher wage floor but so far have been unable to agree on a proposal.

After his speech at a Democratic caucus outside Central Square, Conroy told the News Service that the highest minimum wage in the country is $10 per hour. Asked if he was talking about setting the minimum wage higher than that, Conroy said, “Do the math.”

Activists are pushing a ballot referendum that would increase the wage to $10.50 per hour by 2016, and in November, the Senate advanced a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2016.

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