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House passes minimum wage bill

By Staff | Feb 21, 2014

State Delegate Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley, called the passage of House Bill 4283 “a big win for the hard-working people of West Virginia.”

The bill would raise the minimum wage in West Virginia 75 cents each year for the next two years starting Jan. 1, 2015.

Barrett was the lead sponsor of the bill, which passed Wednesday by a vote of 89-5, with six delegates not voting.

“I introduced a similar bill last year, but it didn’t get any traction,” Barrett continued. “There’s talk of raising the national minimum wage, but West Virginia can’t wait. It’s time we did this.”

Now, the minimum wage in West Virginia is the same as the national minimum wage of $7.25. It would go up to $8 an hour the first year and to $8.75 the second year.

“We’ve done it in a responsible manner,” Barrett said in a telephone interview Friday. “It doesn’t cripple business. It is conscious of business and working people. The median age of minimum wage workers in West Virginia is 35 years old.”

Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, was a co-sponsor of the bill and voted for it. Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson; Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson; and Larry Faircloth, Michael Folk and Eric Householder, all R-Berkeley, also voted for HB4283.

Householder had expressed opposition to raising the minimum wage in an earlier interview with The Journal.

“That was the only bill that offered something for West Virginia workers,” Householder said in a telephone interview Friday. “I wanted to talk about job recruitment, job retention, education, things that would improve the environment for workers to earn more, but we had to take what we got. I would have liked to have seen ways that would have expanded help for employees to make more money.”

State Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, and Larry Kump and John Overington, both R-Berkeley, vote against the bill.

“I have concerns that with this being a state-only minimum wage, above the federal minimum wage, it could cause problems for West Virignia’s economy,” Cowles said in a telephone interview Friday. “It would raise the costs of businesses in West Virginia and hurt state businesses that compete with businesses in other states.”

Cowles said that he would agree that wages for West Virginia workers should be raised, “but I don’t think passing a minimum wage bill is the best way to do it.”

“I want to talk about opportunity, education, higher education, job training and job assistance, things that would empower workers to rise through the economy,” he said. “But that’s a lot more difficult to do than passing a minimum wage bill.”

HB4283 now goes to the state Senate for consideration. However, a similar bill was introduced in the Senate that would raise the minimum wage to $7.85 on July 1, and to $8.25 on July 1, 2015. Senate Bill 411 also would tie the minimum wage rate to the consumer price index in future years.