House Backs Minimum Wage Hike to $10.10 in January

By Steph Machado

Published 04/08 2014 06:50PM

Updated 04/08 2014 07:14PM

MONTPELIER - The Vermont House of Representatives wants to see $10.10 an hour in place by January.

"Who wins when we increase the minimum wage to $10.10 in 2015? 20,000 hardworking Vermonters, 7,000 children, younger workers, and the Vermont economy," said State Rep. Jean O'Sullivan (D-Burlington) on the House floor Tuesday.

The question for most members of the House wasn't whether to raise the minimum wage, but when to do it. Moderates prefer a gradual increase, allowing employers to absorb the increased cost to their bottom line.

"Doing it immediately in January '15...I have real concerns about that for our small businesses, our retailers, grocers," said State Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe).

Governor Shumlin and President Obama have showed support for raising the wage gradually, over the course of three years. But that doesn't mean Shumlin won't sign a bill that does it differently.

"My job is to get a smart minimum wage bill out," Shumlin said. "I believe that our proposal of $10.10 an hour by 2017 is the most thoughtful approach to this, but we'll listen to other ideas."

There was an amendment on the floor Tuesday to go with that slower approach, but it failed 63-82.

"Initially, I thought 2017 seemed more appropriate for businesses to absorb those changes, but then looking at what would've happened anyway in January of 2015 with the cost of living raise, it really is less than a dollar more that we're talking about," said State Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson (D-Essex).

In the end, the House voted 88-57 to hike the minimum wage this January, but the strong minority might influence the Senate's decision when it gets the bill.

The House has to give the bill a final approval Wednesday.

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