CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate Finance Committee Wednesday approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage of $1.50 over three years. The committee changed the House version of the bill, which implemented the raise over two years.
Under the new plan, the minimum wage would rise from the current $7.25 to $8.75 by January 2017. The increases would be 25-cents the first year, 50-cents the second year and 75-cents the third year.
Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso (D-Marion) said both business and labor agreed to the bill, but Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D-Berkeley) opposed the change. The disagreement produced some tense moments between the two leaders during the meeting.
Unger favored the House version which raised the entry level wage by 75-cents in each of the next two years. Unger argued that would get money into the hands of people who need it more quickly.
Unger also implied that labor had not agreed to the change, pointing out that no labor leaders were at the committee meeting. Prezioso countered that all all stakeholders had agreed to the three year plan.
One source said the two met after the meeting and sorted out their differences. “John gets a little emotional,” the source said.
Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, said spreading the increase over three years instead of two would lessen the jolt to businesses.
Acting state Labor Commissioner John Junkins said the minimum wage increase would help sustain low-wage workers.
“Seven dollars 25-cents-an-hour in today’s society isn’t very much of a wage for a sole supporter to support their family on, so anything that could be done to help people would be great.”
The bill now goes to the full Senate.