The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate have passed bills that would increase the commonwealth's minimum wage, but the chambers aren't on the same page in how to implement the increase.
The House version, House Bill 395, would more than double the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour across the whole state over the course of five years. The increase would be implemented incrementally: $10 in July 2020, $11.25 in July 2021, $12 in July 2022, $13 in July 2023, $14 in July 2024 and $15 in July 2025.
The Senate version, Senate Bill 7, takes a more moderate approach. It would incrementally increase the minimum wage across the state to $11.50 an hour by 2024. After that, different regions would see different annual minimum wage increases, depending on the median family income. Northern Virginia, which has the highest salaries in the commonwealth, would see a $1 increase annually until the minimum wage reaches $15 an hour. Regions with less income would see a slower increase. When Northern Virginia reaches $15, the formulas for each region would stop and the wage increases would be tied to inflation.
SB 7 passed Tuesday, 21-19.
“Thank you to everyone who helped us in this fight,” House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, tweeted after Tuesday's 55-45 House vote. “We are finally raising the minimum wage in the Commonwealth of Virginia!”
Thank you to everyone who helped us in this fight. We are finally raising the minimum wage in the Commonwealth of Virginia! https://t.co/0HdtcNlaaz— Eileen Filler-Corn (@EFillerCorn) February 11, 2020
Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, a coalition of businesses who advocate for a minimum wage hike, applauded the chambers for passing legislation to raise the minimum wage.
“Raising the minimum wage will boost the consumer spending that businesses need to survive and thrive,” Alissa Barron-Menza, the vice president of the coalition, said in a statement. “In addition, when businesses pay their employees more adequate wages, they benefit from lower turnover, higher productivity and increased customer satisfaction. Today, lawmakers stood up for the economic well-being of every community across Virginia.”
Republicans overwhelming oppose a minimum wage hike, warning that it could kill jobs.
“Basic economics shows that raising labor costs leads businesses to reduce their workforce and increase the cost of goods and services,” Del. Joe McNamara, R-Roanoke, said in a news release. “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.”
Chris Braunlich, the president of the Virginia-based, free-market Thomas Jefferson Institute, expressed the same concern.
“The only thing these bills will accomplish is to kill jobs in Virginia, reducing employment by 130,000 jobs over 10 years – a number very similar to what is happening across the [river] in Maryland,” Braunlich said. “Worse, not only will it eliminate employees, it will eliminate employers. The House bill makes the wage increases applicable to small, struggling family-owned businesses that cannot afford the increases, in areas of the state that are trying hard to bring their economy back.”
Some Republican lawmakers warned that an across-the-board hike would be more harmful than a regional hike because small businesses in less affluent areas would have a harder time staying open with a hike so large.
The House bill will be sent to the Senate, and the Senate bill to the House, where committees can make changes to the bills to reach a compromise bill.