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Senate approves a wage hike tempered by tax breaks

WASHINGTON The U.S. Senate voted nearly unanimously Thursday to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour in three phases over a 26-month stretch, but sought to temper the blow to restaurants and other small businesses by tacking several tax breaks onto the measure.

The sweeteners included a 15-year depreciation schedule for newly constructed restaurants or renovations of older ones, and a five-year extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a credit given to restaurants that hire individuals adjudged to be at a disadvantage in the job market.

The bill calls for the same wage hike that the U.S. House of Representatives approved last month, but the House measure does not include any tax breaks. The proposals now go to a conference committee that will try to hammer out a compromise bill acceptable to both chambers.

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