HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - A raise is on the way for more than 300,000 Connecticut workers.
Early Friday morning, the state Senate passed a minimum wage bill by a vote of 21-14. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives last week.
Gov. Ned Lamont said that he plans to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
“Working families are the backbone of our state – if they are not financially stable, Connecticut will never be,” Lamont said in a statement on Friday morning.
Right now, the minimum wage is $10.10 per hour. The minimum wage would gradually be raised to $15 per hour by 2023.
It would hit $11.25 in 2020 and $12.50 in 2021. By 2022, employees would make $13.75 per hour. Then by 2023 they would top out at $15.
“With this increase in minimum wage, thousands of hardworking women and men – many of whom are supporting families – will get a modest increase that will help lift them out of poverty, combat persistent pay disparities between races and genders, and stimulate our economy," Lamont said. "This is a fair, gradual increase for the working women and men who will invest the money right back into our economy and continue supporting local businesses in their communities. I’m proud that Democrats came together and took another strong step forward to protect working families."
Small businesses, however, are concerned.
The bill passed the House on party lines, but not without a long 14 hour debate.
Democrats celebrated when raising the minimum wage passed it last Thursday.
"We are trying to bring equity into wages and wages create sustainability,” said Rep. Robyn Porter.
Then it was the Senate's turn. Again, it was expected to pass along party lines.
"I know a lot of people struggle at $10, $11, $12. I've worked through this with the business community. It phases in over 4 and a half years. It's going to lift people up and give them a better opportunity,” Lamont said.
Some Connecticut businesses said it will cost them a lot more, especially amusement parks, grocery stores, fast food restaurants and places that hire seasonal employees.
There is a provision for 16 and 17-year-olds. They would get what's called a training wage, which is 85 percent of the minimum wage for 90 days.
After that, they would get the full amount.
A Waterbury small business leader is making plans to leave the state.
"We just can't afford to stay here and it's very sad," said David Pellizon, manager, Forum Plastics.
Pellizon said the Waterbury business, which employs more than 150 people, simply can't survive in Connecticut if the minimum wage rises to $15.
"To have a 50 percent increase in four years is going to drive us out of here and I'm sure there are other business, once they look at this really closely, they'll realize we are really in the same position," he said.
Democrats, though, said past minimum wage increases have not hurt small business owners and the jump will help working class people make ends meet.
"A worker earning more money will be a stable employee, will be somebody they will be able to invest more in trading in, they will have greater continuity, less turnover in the workforce, so there are benefits for the employers in this as well," said Sen. Martin Looney, a Democrat.
“Connecticut businesses do their best to pay their workers the best they can, but this is one of the most aggressive minimum wage increases I have ever seen,” said Eric Gjede, CBJA.
Business groups said it will have a harmful impact on many small businesses and Republicans agreed.
“Minimum wage is not designed to be the one you are going to live and retire on, it’s one you are going to start,” said Sen. Paul Formica, a Republican.
"What I hear from businesses, they are going to cut people to make room in their wages so you are going to see some layoffs, you’re going to see some non-expansion of businesses in the state of Connecticut, and you’re going to see businesses who are going to leave this state saying who can't afford to stay here," said Sen. Len Fasano, a Republican. "It sounds cliche but that’s exactly what’s going to happen."