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Obama, Shumlin push to raise minimum wage - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Obama, Shumlin push to raise minimum wage

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NEW BRITAIN, CONN. -

President Barack Obama was greeted with cheers and hugs on the campus of Central Connecticut State University Wednesday, as he unveiled a new plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The president says it's all about leveling the playing field.

"It is a central task for all of us to build an economy that works for everybody, not just for some," President Obama said.

Joining the president onstage-- the governors from four New England states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont's Peter Shumlin. They all agree on a united approach to higher wages.

"Having a higher minimum wage is important having a regional higher minimum wage-- so we take away the argument that we can't compete with our neighbors-- would be even better," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

"Even $10 an hour is really difficult to pay your bills," said David Heimberg, who owns Birth of the Blues in West Lebanon, N.H.

Heimberg pays his two employees, factoring in benefits, around $15 an hour. He says as a small-business owner he wants his employees to feel good about where they work, an idea, he says, that is often not shared by bigger employers and we all end up paying.

"If they don't pay them a decent minimum wage we end up subsidizing their employees in one way or another, whether it be through social contracts that we have with them or what have you because they cannot live on less than that," Heimberg said.

Emily Hawks works part time at Price Chopper for a little more than $9 an hour with no benefits. She says it's hard to make ends meet.

"It is really hard," she said. "I mean, I have an apartment and I do have a roommate. But, it's hard to buy groceries and pay rent on only making $9.30."

But others think raising the minimum wage is a bad idea.

Jim Harrison works for the Vermont Grocers' Association. He says Obama's plan to raise the federal minimum wage will cost jobs. And he says the current bills circulating in the Vermont Legislature for the Green Mountain State to raise wages on its own make matters worse.

"We need to spend more time and effort doing legislation, doing things that can develop jobs, grow the economy-- that will take care of wages," Harrison said.

But the president and the region's governors aren't buying that argument. They say when employees have more money, the entire economy benefits.

"Which means they make more profits, which means they can hire more workers, which means you create a virtuous cycle. It's common sense," the president said to applause.

Obama says there are bills before Congress to raise the wage. Lawmakers need to act. By doing so, 28 million Americans will see higher salaries.

Vermont lawmakers are grappling with multiple bills before them calling for raising the minimum wage. Governor Shumlin has made it clear that a regional approach is better way to go to avoid creating economic issues near border communities, like impacts to jobs and costs of goods.

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