- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2014

Brushing aside a recent report that raised red flags about the impact of raising the federal minimum wage, President Obama intends to step up the effort on behalf of one of his top domestic priorities by enlisting four Democratic governors from New England to pressure Congress.

The president will travel to Connecticut on Wednesday for an event with Govs. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. They’ll make the argument that raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 will help to lift millions of workers out of poverty and boost the economy.

The president’s trip comes despite a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that raising the minimum wage could eliminate about 500,000 jobs. The report bolstered the argument of House Republicans who say the move would hurt the economy and force employers to shed jobs.

Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, said Sunday he doesn’t believe the CBO report. He said even if it’s true, the increased wages would help many more people who would remain employed.

“We’re talking about millions and millions of people who would receive an increase in pay, a gigantic shot in the arm for the economy,” Mr. Malloy said. “I don’t think CBO has it right, but what we are talking about is bringing a level of relief to millions and millions of people in the country. People should not be living in poverty when they work 40 to 50 hours a week.”

In Connecticut, the minimum wage is scheduled to rise by 30 cents, to $9 an hour, effective Jan. 1. Mr. Malloy is calling on state legislators to increase it further to $10.10 by 2017.

Rhode Island’s minimum wage increased by 25 cents to $8 on Jan. 1. In Massachusetts, the state Senate has passed a bill to raise it the minimum wage from $8 per hour to $11 by 2016; the House is expected to take up the measure next month.

Vermont’s minimum wage is $8.73 per hour.

Mr. Obama has already signed an order raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors, a step he hopes will raise the heat on Congress to follow suit for the rest of the country. Democratic strategists also believe raising the profile of the issue will help to boost voter turnout in the midterm elections.

White House deputy press secretary Joshua Earnest said Sunday that the rally in Connecticut will top a series this week in which Mr. Obama “will highlight his commitment to expanding opportunity for every American.”

On Tuesday, the president will unveil his fiscal 2015 budget, a month late — a spending plan which calls for establishing a nationwide network of manufacturing hubs, expanding access to early childhood education, modernizing transportation systems and reforming job training programs. Mr. Earnest said the president’s initiatives are “fully paid for, and won’t add to the deficit.”

On Thursday, Mr. Obama will hold an event in Washington to talk about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. He’ll follow that up with a trip to Miami Friday with first lady Michelle Obama to promote early childhood education.

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