Virginia delegates approve increase in minimum wage

Virginia delegates approve increase in minimum wage
Virginia State Capitol (Source: Capital News Service)

RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7/WHSV) — Virginia's House of Delegates has passed a bill to raise Virginia's minimum wage gradually to $15 per hour over the coming years.

House Bill 395 passed on a 55-45 vote on Feb. 11, which was the final day for any bills to pass in their originating chambers, known as 'Crossover Day' in the General Assembly.

The bill would hike Virginia's minimum wage from its current federal minimum rate of $7.25 an hour to $9 per hour as of July 1, 2020.

From there, the rate would rise to $11 per hour on July 1, 2021, to $13 per hour on July 1, 2022, and finally to $15 per hour on July 1, 2023.

The bill also removes a number of exemptions from the minimum wage requirement, including small businesses with less than four employees.

Republicans argue raising the minimum wage would harm small businesses.

“These pay increases may be feasible for big companies in some regions of the state, but for the numerous small and family-owned businesses across the Commonwealth, wages like these could mean the difference between staying afloat and closing up shop for good,” said Del. Terry Kilgore, (R-Wise). “Democrats say they want to help working people, but this will put a significant number of them out of a job.”

Jennie Waering is a member of Central Church of the Brethren. She's active in the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and supports an increase in the minimum wage.

"I think it's an everyday problem in every community in Virginia," she said. "And it's the morally and ethically correct thing to do to raise the minimum wage."

Supporters say their research confirms increases in the minimum wage haven't led to significant job loss, but would help working families who fall below the poverty line make ends meet.

But Virginians like Joyce Waugh, President and CEO of the Roanoke Regional Chamber, say it's a major concern for employers.

"It's going to be harmful to our region and to area businesses," she told WDBJ7.

“Basic economics shows that raising labor costs leads businesses to reduce their workforce and increase the cost of goods and services,” said Del. Joe McNamara, (R-Roanoke). “While the intent of this bill is to raise families out of poverty, it will have the opposite overall effect by reducing incomes for low-wage workers.”

The bill next heads to the Virginia Senate, which is also expected to pass its own version of minimum wage increase. If passed there as well, the bill would head to Gov. Ralph Northam's desk for a signature before becoming law.

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