PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Thousands of workers in Rhode Island will get a 12.5 percent raise on Thursday, as the minimum wage goes from $8 per hour to $9.
The Democratic-dominated General Assembly approved the $1-per-hour increase in June and Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed it in July over objections from some Republican lawmakers that it would put a squeeze on small businesses and could hurt the state's fragile economy. Advocates for the change say it will actually help the economy by giving low-wage workers more money to pay for necessities.
"An increase in the minimum wage is critically important to boost the economic wellbeing of Rhode Island workers, especially given that we are an increasingly low-wage economy," said Kate Brewster, executive director of the Economic Progress Institute, which advocates for low-income Rhode Islanders.
Brewster pointed out that workers who rely on tips, such as restaurant workers, will not receive a raise. The state minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.89.
Rhode Island is one of 21 states increasing its minimum wage. In neighboring Massachusetts, the wage will also rise to $9 per hour, while in Connecticut it will go up to $9.15. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
It's the third consecutive annual increase in Rhode Island's minimum wage. It rose 25 cents in 2014 and 35 cents in 2013.
An analysis by the Washington-based liberal think tank the Economic Policy Institute this month found the change in Rhode Island will mean a raise for an estimated 30,000 workers in the state.
Massachusetts and Connecticut both passed laws this year to raise their minimum wages by several dollars per hour. In Connecticut, the wage is set to incrementally increase to $10.10 by 2017, while in Massachusetts, it will rise to $11 per hour by 2017.
Rhode Island's legislation originally called for an increase to $10 an hour in 2016 and a later increase tied to inflation, but those provisions were stripped out before the legislation passed.