On Friday, the Virginia House of Delegates voted to pass House Bill (HB) 1, which would increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour starting in 2026.
HB 1, introduced by Delegate Jeion A. Ward (D-Hampton) passed in a 51-49 party line vote, with Democrats voting in favor and every Republican voting against the bill.
The legislation, along with its companion bill, Senate Bill 1, would raise Virginia’s minimum wage from the current rate of $12 per hour to $13.50 in 2025 and to $15 in 2026. This continues the efforts Democrats began after they won full majority control of the legislature in 2019, when they began gradually raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to the current $12 rate.
“This is an important step in ensuring that hardworking families do not have to choose between putting food on their tables and life saving medications,” Democratic Del. Kathy Tran said when the measures were first introduced. “I hope that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join us as we work to advance these crucial pieces of legislation.”
Before Friday’s vote, Del. Ward said that the bills were about standing up for the less fortunate.
Increasing the minimum wage is something that the majority of Virginians support.
A poll released last month by the Wason Center, which is based out of Christopher Newport University, found that 68% of Virginians support increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Plus, 2023 polls from Virginia Commonwealth University found that Virginians rank the rising cost of living as the most important issue facing state residents.
Housing and rental costs in particular have soared in recent years. In Sept. 2020, the median home sale price in Virginia was $354,400. As of Sept. 2023, that figure had risen to $412,800, a 16% increase, according to Redfin. Renters are also paying more in Virginia. At the end of 2020, the average cost of rent in the commonwealth was $1,660. As of Nov. 2023, that figure has risen to $1,946, a 17% increase.
According to a study conducted last year by the Virginia Department of Housing and Economic Development, about half a million Virginians made $12 or less per hour as of 2021, with one million workers earning $15 or less.
House Bill 1 will now head to the Virginia Senate, where Democrats have a 21-19 majority after November’s legislative wins.
Despite Democratic and public support, Republicans have uniformly opposed the legislation thus far. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has also signaled that he’s opposed to increases in the minimum wage, telling the Virginia Mercury that “the market is working” in January.
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