By Brian Dowling
A long-negotiated grand bargain to raise the minimum wage, add paid leave, and enshrine a sales tax holiday became law today when Gov. Charlie Baker signed off on the compromise that pulls three popular questions off November's ballot.
The minimum wage is heading to $15 an hour over the next five years, with time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays decreasing to normal wages over the same period. Tipped workers' wages also rise to $6.75 an hour.
The measure creates a paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts that will be funded with payroll taxes on workers and employers. Employees will be able to take 12 weeks a year to care for a family member or bond with a new child, 20 weeks to deal with a person medical issue and 26 weeks to care for an injured service member.
The deal creates a permanent 2-day weekend sales tax holiday on a date set each year by lawmakers.
In a statement, Baker thanked the parties who came to the deal for compromising and finding "common ground to produce a better set of policies than what the ballot questions represented."
Baker stayed on the sidelines during the talks between retailers and a coalition of grassroots groups seeking to wheel and deal on their three popular ballot measures too hike the minimum wage to $15, slash sales taxes and add paid family and medical leave.
When a fourth ballot question on a millionaire surtax was struck from the ballot by the Supreme Judicial Court last week, the outlines of a deal quickly took shape -- with the wage increases timed in over five years, keeping the sales tax in place, mandating a two-day sales tax holiday and adding the paid family leave. The House and Senate both passed the compromise June 20.
Asked on Monday if the payroll taxes added to fund the paid leave would violate his no-tax pledge and lead to a veto of the deal, Baker said he'd have no issue with the added taxes.
"I guess the way I think about this is there's a benefit that's attached to this thing, and that benefit is a paid family leave provision that did not previously exist in state law," Baker said. "I do think the version that was worked through with the folks who participated in the grand bargain made more sense, especially for small businesses, than the one that was on the ballot, which is a pretty important consideration."
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