Virginia lawmakers vote to raise the minimum wage to $12 over three years

Virginia lawmakers vote to raise the minimum wage to $12 over three years
Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, carried legislation in the House of Delegates to raise the states minimum wage. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

On what was scheduled to be the last day of Virginia’s legislative session, lawmakers struck a deal late Saturday night to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 over the next three years.

Democrats, many of whom ran on increasing the minimum wage to $15, said it was the best compromise they could reach.

“This legislation is for people who clean our hotel rooms, our offices, long after we have gone home to be with our families,” said Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, who carried the legislation in the House.

The bill would increase the wage to $9.50 an hour on Jan. 1, $11 in 2022 and $12 in 2023.

It also calls for a study of a regional minimum wage – an approach for which lawmakers in the Senate had been advocating. After that study is complete, lawmakers would vote in 2024 whether to continue increasing the wage to $13.50 in 2025 and $15 in 2026.

If lawmakers do not vote to continue increases, the state would begin increasing the wage annually to account for inflation.

“People would be able to live a little better until we get that study done,” Ward said.

The legislation strikes existing code that exempts employers from paying minimum wage to domestic workers, home health care workers, pieceworkers and people with disabilities. But it retains exemptions for agricultural workers, student workers, au pairs participating in a federal exchange program and temporary foreign workers. It also allows employers to pay workers less who are enrolled in on-the-job training but only for a maximum of 90 days.

Democrats in the House and the Senate have been at odds over the legislation for the better part of the 60-day legislative session.

The House had passed legislation that would have taken the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2026 with no intermediary votes. But the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrower 21-19 majority, had pushed an approach that would have halted state-wide increases at $11.50 an hour, with smaller increases after that made on a regional basis tied to average household incomes.

The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.