The minimum wage in Virginia is still on track to be raised from its current level of $11 to $12 an hour in January 2023, based on action in the Virginia Senate on Monday, January 17. Under legislation earlier passed during the tenure of disgraced former Governor Ralph Northam, the minimum wage is set to increase by one dollar per hour per year, until it reaches a cap of $15.
In opposition to that, Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 173 that sought to stop the automatic increases and instead keep it capped at the current $11. The matter was discussed in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Peake acknowledged that many employers, especially in urban areas, are already offering far above minimum wage to attract desperately-needed workers. However, outside urban areas where the cost of living tends to be lower, the mandated higher wages will place a burden on business owners and force them to pass higher costs on to consumers. “The rural areas, it’s a real problem,” Peake added.
Supporting the increase, Senator David Marsden (D–Burke) said he would oppose Peake’s attempt to repeal, because the current minimum wage – when adjusted for inflation – is well below the peak of the minimum wage in 1968. In other words, the minimum wage in 1968 was $1.60 an hour. However, when adjusted for inflation and the continued devaluation of the US currency, $1.60 then is the equivalent of $12.82 an hour in 2022 dollars.
Even though the 40-member Virginia Senate is closely divided with 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans, the 15-member Commerce and Labor Committee has 12 Democrats and 3 Republicans.
In a party-line vote, Peake’s proposal to keep the minimum wage at $11 was defeated 12-3. Sen. John Edwards (D), whose heavily-gerrymandered 21st district stretches from Southeast Roanoke to the border of West Virginia, voted to keep raising the minimum wage. In contrast, Sen. Steve Newman (R), who represents the largely rural, sprawling 23rd district that runs from the western suburbs of Lynchburg to Bedford, Hollins, and New Castle, voted for the $11 cap.