Town, businesses react to new minimum wage law
FAIRFIELD — Gov. Ned Lamont recently signed a bill into law that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2023, pushing community leaders to seek feedback and fiscal planning for the upcoming years.
“This is perhaps one of the most impactful pieces of legislation for working families that a governor can sign and I am proud to place my signature on this law because it is the right thing to do,” Lamont said May 28 when he signed the bill into law.
First Selectman Mike Tetreau said that town officials would look as to how the new law would affect budget cycles going forward.
“There are so many different components,” Tetreau said. “I don’t know what percentage of the jobs in Fairfield are minimum wage, we’re taking a look at that in the Board of Finance.”
The minimum wage is currently at $10.10 an hour. This would increase throughout the next four years.
The minimum wage goes up to $11 an hour Oct. 1 this year, then $12 on Sept. 1 of next year, then $13 on Aug. 1, 2021, up to $14 on July 1, 2022 and finally $15 by June 1, 2023.
Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey co-sponsored the House Bill raising the minimum wage; Representatives Laura Devlin and Brenda Kupchick voted against the proposal. At the state senate level, Sen. Tony Hwang voted against the bill.
Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Calabrese said that the department does hire a few hundred seasonal employees and that they don’t have anyone working under the new minimum wage rates that would go into effect later in October.
“Next September when the second year rate kicks in we will have to adjust some rates,” Calabrese said. “We will work with our Finance and Human Resources departments to plan accordingly during the next budget cycle.”
Local and small businesses in town say they’re already competing in what is a tough financial environment, particularly as online retailers and e-commerce have gained traction in the past years.
“It’s something that is always a concern and at the forefront of our mind,” Eileen Gould, the store manager at Sound Runner in downtown Fairfield, said. “As a small business, it’s very hard with online sales and we want people to shop local and support downtown.”
Office of Economic and Community Development Director Mark Barnhart said that the town could not do much about the new law.
“There are things that we can control and others that we can’t do much about,” Barnhart said. “With limited resources, we tend to prioritize and focus on those that tend to fall in the first category.”
Fairfield Chamber of Commerce President Beverly Balaz said that a chamber meeting to garner community feedback along with legislators was going to be held June 19 was to be rescheduled.
“We will be doing a survey soon,” Balaz added.
Tetreau has repeatedly advocated for a growing commercial tax base and businesses in town.
“One of the goals is to create an environment that is more job-friendly. The number one thing we need is to get more jobs, so hopefully we’re taking advantage of that,” Tetreau said.