Legislators Mull Over Minimum Wage Increase

By: Michael Gorsegner Email
By: Michael Gorsegner Email

January 11, 2007

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would increase the minimum wage. Now lawmakers in Virginia are trying to get that done for the Commonwealth.

An employee that works 40 hours a day, 52 weeks a year at minimum wage, makes less than $11,000 a year. Both the federal government and the Virginia General Assembly are trying to change that.

Just yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a measure that would raise the federal minimum wage by over $2 an hour. One local lawmaker is trying to make sure those same changes are echoed in the Commonwealth.

"I have a minimum wage bill in that will increase the minimum wage in the Commonwealth of Virginia and we are going to work hard to get that passed," said 57th District Democratic Delegate David Toscano.

Toscano is one of three Virginia Legislators that have authored bills trying to boosts the state's minimum wage. As it stands now, Virginia's lowest paid workers make $5.15 an hour. Toscano's measure would raise that to $7 an hour by July of 2008. It's a concern that Governor Tim Kaine wants the General Assembly fix.

"I look forward to working with you to make a change for the better this year for our working families by passing a fair increase in Virginia's minimum wage," said Governor Kaine.

"The increase to $7.25 might hurt the job seeker who doesn't have High School, who doesn't have marketable skills," said Teresa Turner.

Turner, with the Virginia Employment Commission, says an increase could have adverse affects on employees and employers. Companies could have higher expectations for applicants squeezing out lesser qualified job seekers.

"You're looking for an individual who can bring more so that you get a higher return for what you invest," said Turner.

However, with so few jobs paying close to minimum wage in Charlottesville, Turner thinks the impact will be minimal.

"It's problematic but I don't think it's going to have a dramatic impact on our area," she said.

We made dozens of calls to local businesses and found none that pay the minimum wage here in Charlottesville. Toscano's bill is right now before the Commerce and Labor Committee in the House. As far as the federal legislation, it must pass the Senate before it becomes law.

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