Vermont legislature overrides veto to pass minimum wage increase

-A A +A

Vermont legislature overrides veto to pass minimum wage increase

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 2:10pm -- Brandon

Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) presides over the vote. Photo courtesy of Henry Rood.

Brandon Arcari, Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont House overrode Governor Scott’s veto of S.23, increasing the state’s minimum wage effective in 2021.

The vote passed 100-49, and followed the Senate’s February 13 vote to override the veto 24-6. The bill will raise the state’s minimum wage to $11.75 in 2021, from its current $10.78, and to $12.55 in 2022, and ties minimum wage increases to inflation after those years.

“Today's vote reaffirms the legislature’s commitment to Vermont’s working families,” said House Speaker, Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) in a press release. “A wage increase will be instrumental in improving the lives of Vermonters. The current minimum wage is $10.78 and would have increased simply based on inflation next January 1."

The governor issued a statement following the override.

“My concerns for this bill – based on fiscal analysis from the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office – have been that the negative impacts on Vermont’s economy, workers’ hours and jobs will outweigh the positive benefits, especially in our more rural areas,” Scott said in a separate press release. “These concerns were shared by legislators of both parties.”

House Representative Barbara Rachelson (D-Burlington) said in a phone call with VBM that it felt great to override the veto.

“I know some people had concerns, but there have been 20 states that have increased minimum wage and plenty of reputable studies that support it,” she said.

Rachelson said the bill was not as dramatic an increase as she would have liked, but that it was certainly better than nothing.

“It’s hard to get by on $15 an hour [in Burlington],” she said. “[But] it’s money in people’s pockets.”

It may be possible for an individual to make do with that, but for “a mom a dad and a kid, it’s nearly impossible,” Rachelson said.

“Gradual increases in the minimum wage help ensure Vermonters have the economic resources to support themselves, which puts more money into Vermont’s small businesses and helps our communities thrive,” said Speaker Johnson in the press release.

Governor Scott said that he hoped the legislature’s choice to override the veto was a good one.

“We simply cannot sustain more job losses or closed businesses, particularly outside the greater Burlington area,” he said in the press release. “While disappointing, it’s now more important than ever to move forward and focus on policies that actually grow the economy, make Vermont more affordable, attract more to our workforce to reverse our demographic crisis and help workers move up the economic ladder with more skills for better paying jobs.”

On the floor of the house, Rachelson explained her vote.

“Raising the minimum wage is not a novel idea,” she said. “Twenty states have recently raised their minimum wage.”

Representative Barbara Rachelson (D- Burlington) explaining her vote. Photo courtesy of Henry Rood.