The minimum wage in Massachusetts stands at $11 and no further increases are scheduled, but Senate President Stanley Rosenberg says the Bay State will “absolutely” see a $15 minimum wage law, or at least a statewide vote on it.
“If it doesn’t happen in the Legislature, it will be on the ballot,” Rosenberg said during an appearance on WGBH. “That’s the way it’s going to be.”
While many lawmakers favor a $15 wage floor, bills boosting the minimum wage to that level have not surfaced for debate in the House or the Senate, where a consensus on the issue has not formed.
Under the last minimum wage law, the wage floor rose annually in three, one-dollar increments from $8 to its current $11.
The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, which used the ballot to pass an earned sick time law in 2014, is weighing campaigns for potential 2018 initiative petitions calling for a $15 minimum wage and paid family and medical leave.
Rosenberg said people “have been increasingly using the ballot as leverage to get the Legislature to do what it should be doing,” but he said he would prefer to have the Legislature tackle the issues, noting Democrats have super-majorities in both branches capable of overruling Gov. Charlie Baker if necessary.
“We can save people a lot of time, effort and money by just focusing and doing these things in the Legislature,” Rosenberg said.
The Senate last session passed a paid family and medical leave bill, and the latest iterations of the proposals are in committee awaiting public hearings.
Business groups tend to have a “critical eye” on the matter, mindful of implementation and cost impacts, while activists are “more expansive in their view of what is possible,” said Rosenberg, who couldn’t recall details of the bill approved by the Senate last year and said there are many different proposals.
“The whole point of doing it in the Legislature is you can balance the interests, come up with a good plan that we can afford, a good implementation strategy and getting everybody together on the same page,” said Rosenberg.
Coming off the Democratic Party’s convention Saturday in Worcester where party insiders and candidates for governor claimed Baker’s vision for the state is too narrow, Rosenberg declined to give voice to that charge.
“They’ve got their campaigns to run. They’ve got their rhetoric. I’m not going to get involved in that,” Rosenberg said, after describing Baker as “extremely effective as a manager” and good at identifying problems and finding solutions.
Rosenberg, of late, has amplified his call for significant new revenues to be achieved through tax increases and policy changes, while Baker has said state government needs to make do with the revenues it has available.
“I think we need to continue to live within our means. That’s what people in Massachusetts are doing,” Baker said during an interview televised on Sunday.
Baker has for several months declined to specify how he’s squeezing the state budget to hold down spending in the face of slow-growing tax revenues, and Rosenberg said the state can’t continue to put off investments.
“As our dear friend [former Congressman] John Olver used to say, you mix some sawdust in with the feed and you do more sawdust and more sawdust, eventually the horse is going to die because he’s not getting what he needs,” Rosenberg said.
The real pivot person on taxes on Beacon Hill is House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has both favored and opposed tax increases during his long career.
During Tuesday’s interview, Rosenberg also said the Senate plans to welcome to its chamber and congratulate Sydney Chaffee, a high school teacher in
Boston who was recently named by The Council of Chief State School Officers as the 2017 National Teacher of the Year. Charter school advocates say Chaffee is the first charter school teacher to earn the honor and have criticized the Massachusetts Teachers Association for recently refusing to recognize her.
“The Senate is inviting the teacher to come to the Senate chamber so we can thank and congratulate her,” said Rosenberg, whose Senate has not been as supportive of plans to expand charter schools as the House and Gov. Baker.