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Protesters calling for higher wages for fast-food workers stand outside a McDonald Protesters calling for higher wages for fast-food workers stand outside a McDonald's restaurant in Oakland, California December 5, 2013. The group, which numbered about 200, shut down the store for more than half an hour as part of a daylong nationwide strike demanding a $15 dollar minimum wage. REUTERS/Noah Berger (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS CIVIL UNREST FOOD) - RTX165IS  

Massachusetts lawmaker wants to pass nation’s highest minimum wage

Massachusetts has its eyes on setting a new record, but it might be costly.

Democratic state Rep. Tom Conroy has told party members that he wants the commonwealth to have the nation’s highest minimum wage by 2016.

“I am the author on the House side, as we speak, of a minimum wage bill that I want to bring to the floor next month, and I hope for the end of this year to have the highest minimum wage in the United States of America, right here in Massachusetts,” said Conroy.

“This is a concrete way that I’m trying to fight on behalf of all those folks who are struggling on the margins,” he added.

Conroy’s initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour already has support in the legislature’s upper, chamber. Massachusetts state senators approved a measure to hike hourly minimum compensation to $11 an hour last November.

The Democratic lawmaker, who is now running for state treasurer, argue that Massachusetts’ minimum wage is falling behind neighboring states, including Vermont and Connecticut.

Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, California and Washington, D.C. also either have or will soon have a higher minimum wage than Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin promoted a higher federal minimum wage at a Boston Boloco restaurant Monday during a roundtable discussion.

Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and California Democratic Rep. George Miller introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act last year, but the Democrats’ campaign to raise the minimum was reignited after President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address where he told lawmakers to “Give America a raise.”

Recognizing that such legislation is unlikely to pass through the Republican-controlled House, Obama advised states to raise their own minimum wages.

He said in the address, “To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act.”

Not everyone is on board.

“I really think the whole minimum wage issue is all cosmetics. It’s covering up a bigger issue,” Ken Mandile, president and owner of Swissturn USA and head of the Worcester Tea Party, told told a local Massachusetts media outlet earlier this year. “Creating more jobs is the issue, and not artificially raising the cost of doing business.”

Studies conducted by the Employment Policies Institute have questioned the anti-poverty impact of minimum wage hikes.

One such study concluded that bumping up base pay in San Jose by 25 percent to $10 an hour resulted in two-thirds of the surveyed businesses increasing prices, 42 percent reducing their staffing levels, and 45 percent reducing staff hours.

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