Virginia House of Delegates Passes Bills to Freeze Minimum Wage at $11 an Hour and Include Health Benefits in Legal Definition of Wage


RICHMOND, Virginia – The Republican-controlled House of Delegates passed two bills addressing the minimum wage, including a repeal of increases passed by Democrats in previous sessions. Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) and Delegate Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville) debated about the need for minimum wage increases on the House floor Monday.

“I have it on good theological guidance that nothing in this bill is going to cause you to be cast into eternal darkness and gnashing of teeth,” Freitas said, defending his HB 320 against a claim that eliminating minimum wage increases harms “the least among us,” a reference to Jesus’ teaching in the Bible.

In 2020, the General Assembly passed legislation increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour in 2021, $11.00 in 2022, $12 in 2023, $13.50 in 2025, $15 in 2026, with a formula for an adjusted minimum wage to take effect in 2027. Freitas’ bill aims to freeze that at the current $11 per hour or the federal minimum wage, whichever is greater. The bill passed the House on Tuesday, 51 to 48.

Freitas said increasing the minimum wage prices entry-level workers out of the job market, since employers are going to hire fewer people.

“If we want to help people that are desperately trying to get that first job in order to move up the economic ladder in order to get the experience that they need to be more economically successful, then I wouldn’t take away options that they would otherwise choose for themselves. And that is what the minimum wage does,” he said.

Hudson is a labor economist and Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Virginia. She argued that the labor market doesn’t work like the simple competitive market in Freitas’ argument. She said that in the last 40 years, hourly productivity of American workers grew four times faster than hourly wage growth. Freitas said that government interference in the negotiating process between worker and employer over wages and benefits ends up causing cuts in how much workers make.

“With economics, there is friction and inertia and leverage in a tug of war between business owners and workers and the customers they serve. And that sometimes, in the face of a non-competitive market, there is scope for government to intervene and level the playing field and generate gains for the greater good of all,” Hudson said. “That simple belief that raising the minimum wage hurts workers is an article of faith, not an economic fact.

The House also passed Delegate Joe McNamara’s (R-Roanoke) HB 296, which changes the definition of ‘wages’ to include benefits. McNamara is an accountant, and also owns two ice cream shops.

“The definition of wages used to be the amount you paid to them,” McNamara told The Virginia Star. “I changed that definition to be the amount you paid to them plus the amount you paid for their health care on their behalf.”

McNamara provided an example of a part time employee working for a small employer not legally required to provide health insurance in a situation where the minimum wage goes up to $15 an hour.

“[HB 296] gives the employer-employee relationship the capability to say, ‘Hey, you can come on our group plan. It costs the equivalent of $2 an hour for you to be on that plan, and instead of paying you $15 in cash, we’re going to pay you $13 in cash and $2 an hour in health care benefits,” he said.

He said that could benefit employees who face high costs for health care on the individual market.

“It really helps the employee to have more opportunities to best meet their needs. It doesn’t really help the employer a whole lot, but it creates a better work environment,” McNamara said.

HB 296 also passed 51 to 48. Now, both bills head to the Senate, where the Commerce and Labor Committee has already killed Senator Mark Peake’s (R-Lynchburg) SB 173, which was identical to HB 320. McNamara is hoping he can convince Senate Democrats to pass HB 296, which doesn’t attempt to stop minimum wage increases.

“It’s just a matter of trying to convince the Senate that the bill that I have designed is beneficial both from the employer perspective as well as the employee perspective, and if they can grasp some of those benefits associated with it,” McNamara said. “It’s a big climb.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Nick Freitas” by Nick Freitas. Photo “Sally Hudson” by Sally Hudson. Background Photo “Virginia House of Delegates” by Germanna CC. CC BY 2.0.






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One Thought to “Virginia House of Delegates Passes Bills to Freeze Minimum Wage at $11 an Hour and Include Health Benefits in Legal Definition of Wage”

  1. william r. delzell

    Yea, and then I suppose after this vote, that these same House of Delegate members will vote themselves a hefty pay parachute, with generous salaries and benefits that the average taxpayer can only dream of! So much for frugality, right?