Committee Kills Proposals to Boost Minimum Wage - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Committee Kills Proposals to Boost Minimum Wage

By Jesse Adcock

Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Two bills that sought to incrementally raise the minimum wage in Virginia were struck down by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Monday.

Supporters of the legislation had hoped Virginia would become the 30th state with a minimum wage above the federally mandated minimum of $7.25 an hour. But Republicans on the committee voted to kill the two proposals:

  • SB 785, proposed by Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, would have raised the minimum wage to $8 an hour on July 1, then to $9 an hour in 2018, then to $10.10 an hour in 2019, and finally to $11.25 an hour in 2020. The bill died on an 11-3 vote.
  • SB 978, proposed by Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, would have raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour on July 1, then to $13 an hour in 2018, and ultimately to $15 an hour in 2019. The committee voted 11-2, with one abstention, against the proposal.

“Had we indexed the minimum wage for inflation 40 years ago it would be $11,” Marsden said. “People are really falling behind.”

He said that by raising the minimum wage in yearly increments, his bill could have been repealed should it proved detrimental to the state economy. Marsden added that by raising the minimum wage, consumers could reclaim lost buying power that had been lost in the previous decades due to inflation.

Representatives from the Catholic Conference, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, workers’ unions and minimum wage employees themselves came to speak in support of the bill.

“We continue to walk beside and around these people always telling them to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps,’” said Athena Jones, who came from Portsmouth representing home care workers. “But have never given them shoes in the first place.”

Representatives of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the chambers of commerce for Prince William County, Roanoke and the Richmond area opposed the bill.

“Raising the minimum wage does not solve the problem – it only creates new problems,” said Ryan Dunn, a representative from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “There is no silver bullet for poverty.”

Dunn said that should SB 785 pass, between 10,000 and 31,000 minimum wage jobs would be lost.

Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw of Fairfax pointed out that number of jobs lost would represent a marginal slice of the state population.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the more than 4 million working Virginians in 2015, 50,000 of them earned exactly $7.25 per hour, while 69,000 earned less, because of exceptions to the federal law.

Employees under 20 years old in their first 90 consecutive days of employment, tipped employees, and apprentices can all legally be paid less than minimum wage.

“How many of your members pay $7.25?” Saslaw asked the business representatives. “If your business plan requires you to pay $7.25, you don’t have much of a business plan.”

Some of us have a view that the system does work,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville. “We have a good system in place.”

The committee voted to “pass by indefinitely” both bills, which means they will not be considered further in this session.

How They Voted

Here is how the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted on SB 785:

01/16/17 Senate: Passed by indefinitely in Commerce and Labor (11-Y 3-N)

YEAS – Wagner, Norment, Newman, Obenshain, Stuart, Stanley, Cosgrove, Chafin, McDougle, Black, Sturtevant – 11.

NAYS – Saslaw, Dance, Lucas – 3.

Here is how the committee voted on SB 978:

01/16/17 Senate: Passed by indefinitely in Commerce and Labor (11-Y 2-N 1-A)

YEAS – Wagner, Norment, Newman, Obenshain, Stuart, Stanley, Cosgrove, Chafin, McDougle, Black, Sturtevant – 11.

NAYS – Dance, Lucas – 2.

ABSTENTIONS – Saslaw – 1.

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