PARKERSBURG – A bill raising the state’s minimum wage, signed into law by the governor, will require more work from state lawmakers before it can take effect.
The new minimum wage, passed by the House of Delegates and the Senate on the final night of the regular session in HB 4283, would raise it $1.50 over two years from $7.25 an hour to $8 on Jan. 1, 2015 and then to $8.75 in 2016.
“I signed this bill because I believe it is a positive step toward helping more than 100,000 hardworking West Virginians earn a fair wage – including mothers, fathers, working adults, as well as teens working their first jobs,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Tuesday. “In the last decade, the face of the minimum wage worker has changed while the minimum wage has stayed the same.”
However, matters have arose over unintended consequences relating to overtime compensation and maximum hours worked that concerned him, the governor said.
”I will call the Legislature into extraordinary session during the May interims, beginning May 19, 2014, to address the issues of great concern to businesses large and small – including the fiscal challenges expected to affect our local governments,” Tomblin said.
During a meeting of the Parkersburg City Council Finance Committee Wednesday, Mayor Bob Newell said if the bill remains unchanged, it could end up costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
”It will cost us $330,000 in fire (department) overtime alone,” he said.
Impact to local businesses is a concern of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, President Jill Parsons said.
The bill reverses some of the overtime regulations and exemptions that have been in place, she said. Chamber members have expressed concerns over the bill, what it might do to their payroll costs in dealing with overtime and their ability to effectively run their businesses.
With the minimum wage going up, payroll is the largest expense of being in business for most employers, she said.
”If they don’t have the revenue in place to cover it, they will have to offset that cost somewhere,” Parsons said.
Officials have worried that increased expenses would end up costing some people their jobs as businesses adjust to the new wages.
Parsons said the chamber will continue to watch this issue and make sure members know about it.
No one has talked about the possibility of having chamber members travel to Charleston to testify before lawmakers, but the option remains open, she said.
The chamber’s goverment relations committee will be meeting soon to consider the matter.
Sen Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, said she wished the governor had vetoed the bill and allowed the Legislature to work on the entire bill during a special session.
”Not many understood the ramifications of the bill when it passed,” she said. ”We will go in during the May interim and fix it.”
Boley wanted to see the implementation of the new minimum wage occur over three increments instead of just two.
”It would have given business owners more time to work it into their budgets,” she said.
Generally, lawmakers supported raising the minimum wage because it had not been raised in several years, Boley said.
Delegate Dan Poling, D-Wood, said going back into a special session to work on the concerns with the bill is the correct course of action.
”It is the right thing to do,” he said. ”We can’t leave this until next year.”
Poling said raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do.
”Workers have not had an increase in the minimum wage for a number of years,” he said. ”Prices are rising on everything from food to gas, but wages don’t always rise with the prices.”
Poling said many small businesses around the state are already paying workers a good wage. This bill is to bring many of the national chain stores in the state up to the same level and creates better competition between businesses.
”Businesses may be impacted in some ways, but the point is people need to make enough to buy the products they are producing,” Poling said.
(Staff writer Evan Bevins contributed to this story.)