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Policy: Entitlements

Democrat Martha Coakley faults GOP's Charlie Baker on minimum wage

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Associated Press,Massachusetts,2014 Elections,Entitlements,Campaigns,Minimum Wage,Martha Coakley

BOSTON — Democratic candidate for governor Martha Coakley is faulting Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker for failing to endorse a hike in the state's minimum wage.

In an email to supporters Monday, Coakley pointed to comments that Baker made during a recent address to the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce declining to back a proposal to raise the hourly wage to $11 in Massachusetts.

Coakley, the state attorney general, is one of several Democrats backing the measure.

"He not only said he doesn't believe we should raise the minimum wage, but that he would actually slash the minimum for some workers," Coakley said in the email. "This is the difference between how Charlie and I would govern."

A spokesman for Baker called Coakley's email "a politically motivated attack" and "patently false."

"Charlie's position remains clear: He is open to an increase in the minimum wage but thinks we may be able to do better for low-income workers by exploring increases in the earned income tax credit and enacting reforms that protect workers' hours and create new jobs," Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said in response to Coakley's email.

Baker declined last week to back a proposal to raise the hourly wage to $11 in Massachusetts and proposed a special lower minimum wage for teenagers and training level workers.

"It's usually set somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of what the minimum wage is," Baker told the chamber, according to The Sentinel and Enterprise.

Baker also argued that increasing the minimum wage would reduce the number of employees a business can hire and the number of hours it could afford to have employees work, according to the paper.

Baker has previously suggested that he could support an increase in the minimum wage if it was tied to changes in the state's unemployment insurance system.

Coakley said lawmakers should approve the higher minimum wage and "not hold it up by tying it to other proposals."

The minimum wage could be a high-profile issue in the governor's race — if lawmakers don't act first.

The state Senate has already approved an increase in the minimum wage from $8 to $11 over three years, automatically tying future raises to inflation. The House hasn't taken up the measure.

Adding to the pressure is a campaign by a labor-backed group to put a question on the 2014 ballot that would raise the wage from $8 to $10.50 per hour over two years and link automatic future increases to the rate of inflation.

Coakley is one of five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for governor, most of whom have also endorsed a higher minimum wage.

They include state Treasurer Steve Grossman, Newton pediatrician Don Berwick, former federal Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem, and former Wellesley Selectman Joseph Avellone.

Shrewsbury business owner Mark Fisher is challenging Baker for the Republican nomination.

There are also two independent candidates for governor — Jeffrey McCormick, the founder of the venture capital investment firm Saturn Partners, and Newton resident Evan Falchuk, who's running under the United Independent Party label.

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