House advances legislation that would freeze minimum wage

Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 7:15 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia lawmakers continue to debate the decision to raise the state’s minimum wage. And on Monday, the House of Delegates advanced a bill that would freeze it at the current level.

Virginia Democrats say the state must deliver on the promise of a living wage for workers at the bottom of the pay scale, especially when the minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with rising prices.

“Now it’s time for us to be fair to the low-wage earners also and do exactly what we said we would do,” said Del. Jeion Ward (D-Hampton).

“This legislation is not for the wealthy. It’s for the least of them,” added Del. Angelia Williams Graves (D-Norfolk). “And a vote against increasing the minimum wage is a vote against the most vulnerable population of this Commonwealth.”

But Republicans in the House argue the increase is bad for business and for workers who need a job.

The minimum wage is currently $11 per hour, and will eventually reach $15, if lawmakers reenact the legislation in 2024.

Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) introduced legislation that would freeze the minimum wage at the current level.

“If we want to help people that are desperately trying to get that first job in order to move up the economic ladder, in order to get the experience they need to be more economically successful, I wouldn’t take away options that they would otherwise choose for themselves,” Freitas said. “And that is what raising the minimum wage does.”

Another minimum wage bill introduced by Delegate Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke Co.) also advanced Monday. It would not repeal the current law, but would classify health benefits an employer provides as part of an employee’s wages.

Both bills could face a rocky road when they reach the State Senate where Democrats hold a slim majority.

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