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Connecticut governor hopes to cash in on $10.10 wage law

HARTFORD, Conn. — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is seeking dividends from the political capital he invested earlier this year when he pushed for a $10.10 an hour state minimum wage, making Connecticut the first to pass legislation that will provide workers the same wage President Barack Obama wants on the national level.

Malloy contends his Republican opponent Tom Foley does not support Connecticut's new law, which incrementally increases the current wage of $8.70 an hour to $10.10 by Jan. 1, 2017.

"No one in America, no one in America should work 35 or 40 hours a week and still live in poverty, but he (Foley) believes, he believes people in Connecticut should," Malloy said.

The governor appeared Friday, the 10th day of the 10th month, at a Jamaican bakery with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, backing him up.

"It's a simple straightforward act of good public policy and human decency and that's what Dan Malloy has been about," Patrick said.

Foley campaign spokesman Chris Cooper said the Greenwich businessman supports both a national minimum wage of $10.10 an hour and a state minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. But he said if Foley had been the architect of Connecticut's legislation, he would have wanted consideration given to a tiered approach, in which teenage workers would earn less.

"His point has been he supports the minimum wage as a fairness issue," Cooper said.

Despite the disagreement, Malloy and his campaign continue to paint Foley as an opponent of working people and a higher minimum wage, an issue Malloy's supporters believe resounds particularly with women, who represent about two-thirds of minimum wage workers nationally, according to the National Women's Law Center. Given the closeness of the race — a Quinnipiac University Poll released this week shows the two candidates in a dead heat — women are seen as a key constituency for Malloy.

For much of the year, Malloy has made the minimum wage a key part of his political platform, even before he announced his re-election bid.

In February, he participated in a highly publicized, on-camera partisan feud outside the White House with Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal over Obama's proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Jindal is scheduled to appear with Foley at a campaign event Oct. 17l; Obama, who came to Connecticut earlier this year to celebrate the state's $10.10 legislation, is to make an appearance Wednesday at a rally for Malloy in Bridgeport.

Foley has said the minimum wage is not the problem in Connecticut. He said in March that the issue is far too many people don't have jobs, especially young urban minorities.

"The job of a governor is to support policies and create an environment where high value-added jobs, not minimum wage jobs, are available for everyone who wants one," Foley said.

Malloy has not always fully embraced minimum wage increases proposed by Connecticut legislators. Last year, he was noncommittal about a bill that would have raised the minimum wage to $9.75 by 2014. That same measure also called for automatic raises that would be tied to increases in the Consumer Price Index, a federal measure of inflation.

A spokesman for Malloy said at the time that the governor "supports the ideals behind the legislation," but also understands the cost pressures facing businesses, particularly in a weak economy.