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Bill that would increase minimum wage to $15 by 2026 sent to Youngkin

Sen. Roem speaks about a bill
Shaban Athuman
VPM News File
Sen. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, gives remarks on the Senate floor during a General Assembly Session on Tuesday, February 13, 2024 in Richmond, Virginia.

Virginia would be among at least 10 other states ensuring that rate or more.

Lawmakers voted to raise the minimum wage Friday, sending the bill to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk.

If signed into law, the legislation would raise Virginia’s $12 hourly minimum wage to $13.50 in 2025 and $15 in 2026.

The wages of nearly a million Virginia workers would be affected, if the $15 minimum wage is enacted, according to a 2021 report by the Richmond Federal Reserve. The effects could be less widespread, however, since wages have increased since that 2021.

A schedule of increases was set in the Virginia Minimum Wage Act, which was passed in 2020 and runs through 2027 — though another bill was necessary to enact the increases in 2025 and after. This legislation satisfies the requirement.

The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour — a number that has not changed in more than a decade. By 2026, when Virginia hits the $15 mark, at least 10 other states will have in place a minimum wage equal to or higher than the commonwealth’s.

The bill headed to Youngkin’s desk also provides for an adjustment to the minimum wage that's tied to inflation after Oct. 1, 2026.

The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget estimated that the rate would eventually rise to $18.18 in 2031.

DPB wrote in a fiscal impact statement that the state Department of Medical Assistive Services would see the wages paid to personal care services workers go up, estimating a cost of $128 million in Fiscal Year 2026. Senate and House budget amendments accounted for the increase in costs to the agency.

“Domestic workers are amongst the lowest-paid and most-forgotten workers, so the opportunity to increase the minimum wage creates sustainability when it comes to paying rent, food and anything to be a functioning adult,” said Yanet Limon-Amado, Virginia director of Care in Action, which lobbies for domestic and personal care workers.

Limon-Amado said that the minimum wage bill was one component of making domestic work more sustainable, pointing to another proposal that would affirm that live-in domestic workers are eligible for overtime pay.

A Youngkin spokesperson wrote in a statement that the governor would review any legislation that comes to his desk.

Last month, the governor said the state’s $12 minimum wage was not determining market wages.

“The market is working. Virginians are earning lots of money,” said Youngkin. “This is really important to allow businesses to meet the market because they need to — because it is a tight labor market and not impose on them.”

The Richmond Fed wrote in its 2021 report that the “evidence of an employment decline after a minimum wage increase, however, has been mixed.”

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis — a liberal economic justice group — in January reported that "1 in every 8 Virginia workers is still paid less than $15 an hour." The conservative fiscal group Americans for Prosperity , however, estimated that if the higher minimum wage is implemented, the commonwealth could lose at least 83,000 jobs.

Before the Senate voted Friday, Sen. John McGuire (R–Goochland) spoke against the bill’s passage.

“We live in a free market economy, and it's not the job of the government to tell employers what to pay,” said McGuire. “This bill and raising the minimum wage is damaging to our farmers, as well as many small businesses.”

Farm workers are exempt from Virginia’s minimum wage law. A bill to remove that exemption is also moving through the Senate after passing the House.

Sen. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) spoke in favor of the wage proposal.

“No employer should be paying someone where they can't afford the basic necessities of life. This is where we're at right now,” she said. “This bill is the most reasonable way to help close that gap.”

The Senate went on to pass the bill, 21-18. No delegates debated the bill on Friday, and it passed 51-47.

Votes in both chambers were along party lines, with Democrats voting for the bill and Republicans lining up against it. Republican Del. Geary Higgins (R–Loudoun) was the lone member of his party to support the House bill.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.
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