Raimondo proposes 90-cent hike in R.I. minimum wage at MLK breakfast + Poll

By Katherine Gregg
Journal Political Writer

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. almost verbatim, the governor said: “We know it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter, if he doesn’t earn enough money to be able to buy a hamburger and a cup coffee.”

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A breakfast to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. provided an audience of several hundred people for Gov. Gina Raimondo’s announcement, on Monday, that she is backing a 90-cent hike in the state’s $9.60 an hour minimum wage, and for other top-ranked Rhode island Democrats to denounce President-elect Donald Trump’s derogatory comments on Twitter about Congressman John Lewis, a civil-rights icon.

On the minimum-wage front, Raimondo said the annual breakfast at the Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston was a reminder “that the civil rights movement — and what Dr. King taught — was that there can be no equality without economic equality.”

Quoting King almost verbatim, she said: “We know it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter, if he doesn’t earn enough money to be able to buy a hamburger and a cup coffee.”

“No one working full time should live in poverty,” she said to applause.

Raimondo was unable to persuade state lawmakers last year to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, the rate to which Connecticut’s minimum wage rose at the start of this year. Massachusetts’ rate is $11 an hour.

But House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed are on record in support of some increase in Rhode Island’s minimum wage this year, though they have not specified an amount, and 20 Democratic state lawmakers are pushing an increase to $15 an hour by 2022, starting with a boost to $11 next year, then up by a $1 a year.

Raimondo’s $10.50-an-hour proposal would take effect on Oct. 1, 2017.

Among the findings of a recently released analysis by the Economic Progress Institute: a single adult in Rhode Island would need $12.38 an hour — the equivalent of $25,751 a year before taxes — to make enough to pay $20,500 a year in bare-bones living expenses, and the breadwinner in a single-parent family, $30.40 an hour ($63,238 a year).

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