The Maine House has given preliminary approval to a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.00 per hour by 2016, with further increases linked to inflation. But further votes will be necessary.Under the plan, the minimum wage would increase to $8.00 per hour starting July 1, 2014. It would go up to $8.50 by July 1, 2015 and make on more jump to $9.00 by July 1, 2016. As inflation rises so to would the minimum wage. The House voted 86-58 Wednesday along party lines.An intense House debate preceded the vote as the bill’s sponsor, South Portland Democrat Scott Hammann, made the case for the wage hike. “Increasing the minimum wage puts money in people’s hands and they turn around and spend it in the community,” Hammann said. “Putting money in people’s hands increases consumption. Increased consumption and the demand for goods increases employment.” Maine, where the current minimum wage is $7.50 per hour, is one of more than a dozen states that have minimum wages that are higher than the federal minimum of $7.25.Republicans unanimously opposed the measure. “I think the focus, in terms of raising wages, ought to be focused on growth,” said House Minority Leader Ken Fredette. “If we have growth in our economy the minimum wage isn’t going to be an issue. The problem is Democrats want to keep putting more regulations on businesses, more cost on businesses which is going to decrease growth in our economy, which makes this more of an issue. So quite frankly, it’s a job killer.” The minimum wage bill faces additional votes in the House and Senate. Governor LePage hasn’t announced a position on the bill.