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Speaker DeLeo Calls For Minimum Wage Hike

BOSTON — House Speaker Robert DeLeo is laying out his plans for a minimum wage hike in Massachusetts.

In a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Thursday, the Winthrop Democrat called for a gradual increase in the state’s minimum wage from $8 per hour to $10.50 in 2016.

That would be the highest minimum wage in the country, but not as high as the $11 per hour wage approved by the state Senate last fall. That could lead to conflict between the two chambers.

The Senate bill — and a separate ballot question slated for November — would make future increases automatic: tying minimum wage hikes to inflation. The House bill does no such thing.

Steve Crawford — a spokesman for advocacy group Raise Up Massachusetts, which is pushing the ballot measure — praised Speaker DeLeo’s commitment to raising the minimum wage. But he said tying minimum wage to inflation is vital.

“It’s economic security for low-wage workers, knowing that as the cost of living goes up, their wages will go up too,” Crawford said.

DeLeo said keeping the minimum wage at $10.50 — at least for awhile — will allow for more predictable costs for business.

In another nod to business, DeLeo reiterated his long-standing position that a minimum wage hike must be tied to unemployment insurance reform.

Paul Guzzi, president of the Greater Boston Chamber, put himself firmly behind that approach. Unemployment insurance in Massachusetts, he said, is just too expensive.

“In order to create jobs, in order to create good jobs, we need an environment here that encourages a) those businesses that are here, and b) all of those businesses that we want to come here,” Guzzi said.

DeLeo said he expects the bill to be complete in the next week or two.

Any House-approved measure would need to be reconciled with Senate legislation.

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