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Minimum wages again rise across New England — except in New Hampshire

Activists appeal for a $15 federal minimum wage near the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. For more than a decade, the federal rate has remained at $7.25. The minimum wages in two New England states — Massachusetts and Connecticut — will more than double the federal rate in 2023.
File photo / J. Scott Applewhite
/
AP
Activists appeal for a $15 federal minimum wage near the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. For more than a decade, the federal rate has remained at $7.25. The minimum wages in two New England states — Massachusetts and Connecticut — will more than double the federal rate in 2023.

The minimum wage will go up to $15 an hour in two New England states in 2023 — among the highest rates in the county.

The new rate in Massachusetts takes effect on New Year's Day, the last of five increases mandated by a 2018 law.

"A lot of people thought this was impossible," said Andrew Farnitano, spokesperson for Raise Up Massachusetts, a labor-backed group that pushed for the minimum wage increases. "We were told that $15 an hour was unachievable, was a pipe-dream."

Massachusetts will be joined by Connecticut at $15 an hour on June 1.

Those rates fall short of the leading minimum wage states — Washington, which is going to $15.74 in 2023, and California, at $15.50.

Elsewhere in New England, the minimum wage jumps above $13 an hour in Maine (increasing from $12.75 to $13.80), Vermont (from $12.55 to $13.18) and Rhode Island (from $12.25 to $13).

New Hampshire's minimum wage remains tied to the federal rate, which has been stuck at $7.25 for over a decade.

Some states' laws include lower rates for tipped workers, farmworkers or younger employees.

In some states, future increases tied to inflation

The increases in Massachusetts were included in a so-called grand bargain, a 2018 compromise between business and labor groups embraced by the Legislature.

The deal also included paid leave, a reduction in holiday overtime pay, and a permanent sales tax holiday in the summer. It staved off a series of planned ballot questions, including one that would have raised the state's minimum wage to $15 by 2022, a year earlier than the timeline set by the grand bargain.

That 2018 ballot question proposal, from Raise Up, would also have indexed future increases to inflation. The element was dropped from the grand bargain, but has become a fixture of minimum wage laws in some other states, including Vermont, Maine and Connecticut.

But Massachusetts has no future increases on the books.

Farnitano said his group is not currently supporting any specific proposal for additional minimum wage hikes, but they do see a need, especially given recently historic levels of inflation.

"And we're going to be looking in the new year at what solutions we can pursue to address that need," he said.

The state's incoming Democratic governor appears to agree.

"Governor-elect [Maura] Healey is a strong supporter of paying workers a fair wage and believes the state minimum wage should be adjusted over time to keep up with the cost of living," Healey spokesperson Karissa Hand said in an email. "She will review any legislation that reaches her desk."

This report contains information from the State House News Service.

Sam Hudzik has overseen local news coverage on New England Public Media since 2013. He oversees a team of about a dozen full- and part-time reporters and hosts.