On July 3, 2014, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed into law a measure that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2015. The legislation, which will increase the state’s minimum wage for the third time in as many years, was approved by the Rhode Island General Assembly and sent to the governor just before the close of the legislative session last month. Altogether, 10 states and the District of Columbia have passed minimum wage increases during their legislative sessions this year.
Rhode Island, which with Mississippi currently has the highest state unemployment rate (7.9 percent in June 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics), will in 2015 have one of the highest state minimum wage rates in the country. The only states expected to have minimum wage rates higher than Rhode Island’s next year are Connecticut ($9.15), Oregon ($9.10), Vermont ($9.15), and Washington ($9.32). The minimum wage in neighboring Massachusetts will also be $9.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2015.
Separately, the 2014-15 fiscal year budget signed by Governor Chafee on June 19, 2014 prohibits Rhode Island municipalities from establishing a minimum wage higher than the state or federal law requirements. This budget provision was in response to efforts by certain cities to raise minimum wages at the local level.