Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday signed legislation that raises the state's minimum wage to the highest in the country.
The bill, S.2195, "An Act Restoring the Minimum Wage and Providing Unemployment Insurance Reforms," gradually raises the minimum wage to $11 over the course of the next three years while also lowering unemployment insurance costs for employers across Massachusetts.
Patrick called for the raise of the minimum wage in January, and the newly-signed bill aims to bring "relief" to more than 800,000 wage earners. It also marks the first time tipped worker wages have been raised in Massachusetts since 1999, Patrick's office said in an announcement Thursday.
"Raising the minimum wage brings a little relief to the working poor, many of whom do jobs we could not live without and who recycle money right back into the economy," Patrick said in a statement. "By signing this bill, we show the nation that opportunity can and must be spread outward, not just upward. I thank the legislature for their important work in reaching this milestone."
Reforms to the state unemployment insurance system, meanwhile, would freeze UI rates for employers for three years and expand the wage base subject to those rates to $15,000, according to Thursday's announcement.
"A 38 percent pay raise means a lot to low-wage workers who may have to work several jobs to just to put food on the table," said Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rachel Kaprielian. "Massachusetts is leading the way in bringing them closer to earning a paycheck they and their families can live on."
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh also commended the move on Thursday, releasing the following statement:"I applaud Governor Deval Patrick for signing an increase in our state’s minimum wage into law today. By 2017, Massachusetts will have the highest minimum wage in the nation at $11 per hour, signaling our shared commitment to working people across the Commonwealth.Our communities are increasingly becoming those of haves and have-nots. No parent working full-time should have to raise their children in poverty. This increase in the minimum and tipped wages will benefit more than half a million people, the majority of whom are women. It will allow these families to better support themselves and have more dollars to reinvest in our local economy. I also thank the many stakeholders who have played an important role in increasing our minimum wage and securing this pathway out of poverty for hard-working families in Massachusetts."