Va. Republicans push back against minimum wage hike

The Republican-led House of Delegates in Virginia passed a bill Tuesday that would cancel gradual increases that are planned for the state’s minimum wage in the coming years.

Virginia’s minimum wage, which currently sits at $11 per hour, is scheduled to increase annually until it reaches $15 by 2026.

“If you make it more expensive to hire somebody then fewer of those people will get hired or more automation will take place,” Republican Del. Nick Freitas argued.

Republicans said that the government shouldn’t set wages and that the increases will hurt small businesses.

“The equation here is ‘how many jobs are you going to destroy in order to help the people that still have jobs after you’re done doing it?'” Freitas said.

The legislation passed in the House along party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. It now faces long odds as it heads to the Democratically-controlled Senate.

“That simple belief that raising the minimum wage hurts workers is an article of faith, not an economic fact,” argued Democratic Del. Sally Hudson. “In the face of a noncompetitive market, there is scope for government to intervene and level the playing field.”

Hudson, an economist at the University of Virginia, added a jab, saying “you need a little bit more than ‘Economics 101’ to understand the consequences of a policy like this.”

Democrats have argued that wages haven’t kept pace with productivity and that the scheduled increases will lift up workers and help families.

The minimum wage in Virginia went up from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour in May 2021 and increased to $11 at the start of this year.

Now that Republicans control the House, they are pushing back against further minimum wage increases as well as other measures that were passed under Democratic leadership during the last two years.

Following the November elections, Republicans won a 52-48 majority in the House.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Nick Iannelli

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