Senate Republicans kill bill on raising minimum wage

RICHMOND - Senate Republicans killed off this year's minimum wage increase request Monday, shooting down a Democratic bill to increase the floor to $10.10 an hour over the next two-and-a-half years.

The vote was 11-3 to lay the bill aside for the rest of this legislative session, a motion offered by Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. "Tommy" Norment, R-James City.

Senate Bill 681 would have increased the minimum wage in Virginia to $8 an hour come July 1. It would take the rate up to $9 an hour next year and to $10.10 as of July 1, 2017.

The state's bottom wage currently is $7.25, as set by federal law.

A similar bill failed last year, and Republicans have repeatedly made it clear they don't favor an increase. A number of business groups, representing large and small businesses, retailers, manufacturers and farmers, spoke against the increase Monday, during a Senate Commerce and Labor Committee meeting.

Sponsoring state Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, and a number of activists and workers made an economic case for the increase. They said the families of full-time workers live in poverty at $7.25 an hour, which translates to about $15,000 a year before taxes for a 40-hour week.

Beyond that, they said the bill would be good for the economy, increasing disposable income and juicing consumerism. Business groups argued that the increase would force owners to cut jobs and hours, hurting the workers the legislation is meant to help.

More states are moving to increase the minimum wage, though. As of January 1, 29 states and the District of Columbia have minimums above the federal floor, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Monday's lop-sided vote was cast despite the fact that nearly half the legislators who voted "no" were not in the room for the otherwise packed committee room for vote, or to hear the bulk of arguments for and against the bill.

Monday was a busy day at the legislature, with committee meetings stacked on top of each other. State Sen. Jeff McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, cast several no-votes for his absent colleagues, in addition to his own no vote.

Fain can be reached by phone at 757-525-1759.

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