(The Center Square) — As Rhode Island’s 2023 legislative session gets underway, the head of the Senate’s Committee on Labor has introduced a bill proposing a $20 minimum wage by 2025.

State Sen. Frank Ciccone, D-Providence, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 0037. The bill, as drafted, proposes increasing Rhode Island’s minimum wage from the current rate of $13 per hour to $15 per hour on Jan. 1, and to the benchmark $20 per hour on Jan. 1, 2025.

Upon the bill’s introduction Jan. 18, SB0037 was forwarded on to the Committee on Labor for review and analysis. A date for the first committee meeting of this legislative session has yet to be set.

Ciccone, who has been chairman of the Committee on Labor for several years, has not issued a news release or discussed SB0037 in social media.

But Ciccone, who also has worked as a consultant for Local Union 808, has previously advocated for an assortment of labor-related issues in his more than two decades in state government. That includes prior attempts to boost the minimum wage.

There have been ongoing calls to increase Rhode Island’s minimum wage. Advocates have pointed to a number of reasons behind the maneuver, including the high cost of living within the state and competition with nearby states – most notably, Massachusetts.

Last year, for instance, state Rep. Brianna Henries, D-East Providence, introduced House Bill 7765, which proposed a $19 hourly minimum wage by 2025.

HB7765 never advanced beyond the House Committee on Labor, where it was under review, in the 2022 legislative session.

While advocating for the bill at a House committee meeting last March, Henries said the $12.25 minimum wage – the rate in place in 2022 – was not cutting it for people trying to make ends meet.

“When we’re talking about the working class, it’s me. It’s what I do,” Henries said in her testimony to the committee. “It’s important to me these voices are heard.”

Rhode Island’s minimum wage has undergone a series of almost yearly incremental increases.

Five years ago, the rate was set at $10.10 per hour, followed by $10.50 per hour in 2019, $11.50 in 2020, and $12.25 in 2022.

While there has been support for continued increases to Rhode Island’s minimum wage, there also have been analyses suggesting lawmakers in states across the country pump the breaks on the effort.

The Heartland Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, has been among the organizations cautioning lawmakers to consider the larger picture when enacting minimum wage laws.

“A paramount concern surrounding increases in the minimum wage is the overall effect upon employment levels,” Samantha Fillmore of the Heartland Institute wrote in an article published last fall.

“Minimum wage hikes produce unintended consequences that often inflict even more pain upon the very people they are supposed to benefit,” Fillmore said.

Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.

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