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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Advocates Rip Virginia Governor’s Vetoes of Minimum-Wage Bills

The Center for Economic and Policy Research reported if the minimum wage kept up with productivity, it would be $21.50 per hour. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — A bill vetoed by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour starting in 2026.

While the bill moved out of committee and the General Assembly, it did so on party-line votes. Youngkin opposed the bill, saying it could hurt small businesses and some restaurants.

Jay Speer, executive director of the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said it was disappointing to see the measure vetoed.

“Wages are way too low. People cannot afford housing and food and everything else,” Speer pointed out. “It’s a disappointment that they can’t raise the minimum wage so people can survive. I mean, it’s long overdue.”

Passing the bill was part of a 2020 minimum-wage increase requiring a reauthorization to bring it up to $15. A state study found a person has to make at least $14.55 an hour to afford the cheapest place to live while only spending one-third of his or her income on housing. The current minimum wage in Virginia is $12 an hour, but around 500,000 Virginians make $12 or less.

Youngkin also vetoed a bill ending exemptions from Virginia’s minimum-wage requirements for farmworkers or temporary foreign workers.

Kim Bobo, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center on Public Policy, said it was not as impactful since most farmworkers make more than the minimum wage. But she said the exemption remains for another reason.

“The only reason farmworkers continue to be exempted in Virginia is racism,” Bobo contended. “That’s why they’re exempted. And, we should just change that, like there’s no reason not to. It really does not affect that many workers in Virginia.”

Youngkin and other legislators with a farming background said the bill would hinder farmers’ ability to turn a profit.

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