State Sen. Stephen Lynch
Senate debate on increasing the minimum wage
Jul. 26, 2001
Note: Comments in [italics] are mine
"On the underlying matter of the effectiveness and purpose of the indexing measure, as we all
know, far too often in this debate, we have periods of many years between increases in the
minimum wage [and personal exemptions]. What usually happens is we allow the minimum
wage [and personal exemptions] to linger in years when we view the economy as unable
to sustain the increase. The pressure builds over the years until we grasp the political will to
"This would make those increases, although small, predictable and graduated, rather than the
current situation where employers [or taxpayers] have no indication of what the minimum
wage [and personal exemptions] might be in years to come. They'll be able to predict it
based on the cost of living. It offers predictability to employers and workers
[or taxpayers] as well. It avoids the fits and starts that we have seen. We've seen gaps of time
of five or six years where we have no increases at all, and those workers [or
taxpayers] lag further behind...."
On Wednesday morning, from a Boston Globe news report ("Senate revives wage hike bill," by Rick
Klein), we learned that the state Senate would soon take up a bill to index the
minimum wage, to automatically adjust it with the rate of inflation. Nobody realized just
"This is an issue that transcends mere economics," the Globe report quoted Senate President Thomas F.
Birmingham. "Without indexing, those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder ...
see the buying power of their minimum wage erode on a daily basis."
We thought, "Hey, shouldn't that apply as well to the personal exemption when we file our state income
tax returns?" (The federal government has indexed its personal exemption since the early-80s under
So we contacted state Sen. Bob Hedlund's office yesterday and asked him to propose an amendment to
the minimum wage bill when it comes to the Senate floor which offers to index the personal exemption as
That's when we discovered that, with almost no warning, the Senate would debate their bill that very
afternoon, yesterday: any proposed amendments had to be submitted by noon. This was
agreed to by Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees on Wednesday, when Senate President Birmingham scheduled the
We'd missed the deadline, but Sens. Hedlund and Lees agreed to attempt to get our proposal included as
a late-filed amendment. Their request was shot down as not only tardy but not germane to the debate: It
was declared a separate issue unrelated to the minimum wage indexing bill by the Senate Clerk
and Senate President.
Nonetheless, Sens. Lees and Hedlund rose and spoke in favor of our rejected amendment (see debate,
The Senate yesterday unanimously voted to increase the minimum wage from $6.75 (the highest in the
nation) to $7.00 per hour then indexed it to inflation. It now goes to the House.
Republican Senate leaders intend to bring up our proposal again soon, perhaps in a supplemental budget
debate (along with our voluntary tax check-off proposal, if it isn't included in
the final budget now in conference committee.)
If the Legislature fails to index the personal exemption this year, in the fall CLT will file a bill for next year
to accomplish it.
Every argument used to advance indexing of the minimum wage is equally applicable to indexing the
Our proposal is only fair and consistent ... a matter of equity. And it is long overdue.
State House News Service
Thursday, July 26, 2001
SENATE SESSION - THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2001
CONVENES: The Senate convened at 1:47 pm, President Thomas
Birmingham of Chelsea presiding.
MINIMUM WAGE: Question came on engrossment of S 1812 maintaining the value of the
minimum wage. Sen. Lees offered an amendment increasing the minimum wage to $7. Sen.
Lynch offered a further amendment increasing the minimum wage to $7 and tying
it to inflation.
SEN. LYNCH said just to bring you up procedurally -- the
minority leader has presented an amendment that would replace any indexing mechanism with a measure to increase the
current minimum wage by 25 cents.
The further amendment I have placed before the members would
adopt the recommendation by the minority leaders, and it would in addition, implement indexing.
On the underlying matter of the effectiveness and purpose of
the indexing measure, as we all know, far too often in this debate, we have periods of many years between increases in the
minimum wage. What usually happens is we allow the minimum wage to linger in years when
we view the economy as unable to sustain the increase. The pressure builds over the years
until we grasp the political will to increase it.
The indexing ties the minimum wage to the consumer price
index, a CPI Urban to be perfectly accurate. This requires that each year, the Department of Labor generate a figure
for the CPI, which is basically a figure that reflects the increase in costs for a group of
commonly purchased goods. That changes very slowly from decade to decade.
This would make those increases, although small, predictable
and graduated, rather than the current situation where employers have no indication of what the minimum wage might be
in years to come. They'll be able to predict it based on the cost of living. It offers predictability
to employers and workers as well. It avoids the fits and starts that we have
seen. We've seen gaps of time of five or six years where we have no increases at all, and those workers lag
further behind. Who are the minimum wage earners?
SEN. LEES said it was my suggestion to do the 25 cents. This is
the CPI indexing. Couple of points. The senator mentioned the legislators' salaries are tied to the same thing. I would
point out that we can go down. We're making sure the public doesn't go down....
Question came on the further amendment
ON ROLL CALL VOTE OF 37-0, FURTHER AMENDMENT ADOPTED. Question
came on engrossment.
SEN. LEES said I believe a further amendment has been offered
by a member of the minority party, which is in the hands of the clerk.
The pending amendment, as amended, was adopted on voice
vote. Question came on engrossment.
SEN. LEES said if we're moving to the engrossment stage, I'd
just like to ask for a ruling. It is my understanding there is another amendment pending by the senators from Norfolk and
Plymouth, and I want to make sure we have an opportunity to at least make a point.
Obviously the members of Ways and Means were asked to vote this bill out. Then it was
indicated after that point that it was going on the calendar. I as minority
leader allowed it to go on the calendar in an informal session.
SEN. LEES continued: Part of that was an order that we will
have all amendments in by a certain date. I certainly respect and understand and agreed to that. At that point, all
amendments had to be in by noon yesterday, July 25. In many other instances, we in this
chamber have been able to, if somebody doesn't meet that deadline and has a minor
amendment, we will accept it.
This amendment increases exemptions and deductions with the
CPI. It is my understanding if someone has a change, we will in good faith look at that. This is a little more than a minor
amendment. It's basically another bill. Since we are offering it outside the purview of the
agreement, this bill is in all reality a major change. Is the chair ruling in that way, and
that's why we're not bringing it up?
SEN. BIRMINGHAM said we have traditionally adopted a very
liberal reading of our amendment deadlines. In this instance, not only was the deadline adopted in an informal
session, a memo was sent immediately after, advising all members of the 12
noon Wednesday deadline.
Nonetheless the amendment was filed only after the beginning
of the session today. Notwithstanding all of that, we have often strived to find a way to accommodate a member's
desire to somehow get an amendment before the body, notwithstanding the noncompliance
with the order.
In this instance, the amendment itself is so capacious
there's a strong argument that the amendment is beyond the scope of the bill itself and would be out of order. Therefore
the combination of the amendment possibly being beyond the scope substantively, and plainly
being out of order procedurally, causes the chair and the clerk to reject the
SEN. LEES received unanimous consent to make a brief statement.
Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate the ruling and certainly understand it. But I do want to in good faith
point out that the senator only did it today because I had a discussion with
him. But let me just make the point.
We will revisit the issue at some point. This amendment will
come up in a supplemental budget or something else. We should at least have a discussion at some point down the road.
The amendment says the commissioner shall increase all
deductions and exemptions permitted under this chapter to reflect increases in the CPI during the most recent 12-month
period for the data.
The time frame really is my fault here, but I do believe
it's a bill that should have a proper debate at some point.
SEN. HEDLUND received unanimous consent to make a brief
statement. Just to clarify -- I do hope in the future we have an appropriate vehicle to revisit this issue.
This amendment would tie the personal exemption here in
Massachusetts to the CPI. This is similar to what the federal government did in 1981.
We have great concern in this chamber for working families.
This would take that a step further and reach all low-wage workers.
We've made great strides to increase the personal exemption
from $2,200 per individual to $4,400. This would impact a broader spectrum of low-wage workers. I respect the ruling of
the chair, but I would just point out I saw the newspaper article about this prior to the memo.
SEN. LYNCH secured support for a roll call vote.
ON ROLL CALL VOTE OF 37-0, MINIMUM WAGE BILL ENGROSSED
MORE MINIMUM WAGE: The Senate engrossed S 2075 relative to the
minimum wage law.
ADJOURNS: The Senate adjourned at 3:17 pm, to meet next at 11
am Monday without a calendar.
DISCLAIMER: All votes are voice votes, unless otherwise noted.
Bills ordered to third reading have been given initial approval. To engross a bill is to pass it and send it to the
other branch. The last of three votes taken on bills that reach the governor's desk is the vote on
enactment. So, it's third reading (initial approval), engrossment (passage) and
enactment. The News Service coverage of legislative debate is an accurate summary of remarks, not a