The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

September 9, 2007

‘Hopefully a living wage’

Experts have differing thoughts about effects as minimum increases

FAIRMONT — As minimum wage continues to go up in West Virginia, experts have differing thoughts about the economic impact it may have on the state.

In West Virginia, the minimum wage increase is being staggered over three years. In July 2006, the pay jumped from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour, and it went up to $6.55 this summer. In July 2008, the state will see the final 70-cent increase, which will bring the minimum wage to $7.25, Delegate Doug Stalnaker said. Stalnaker (D-38th District) is from Lewis county.

West Virginia’s minimum wage for covered, nonexempt employees is higher than the federal minimum wage. Some states don’t have minimum wage laws and abide completely by the federal regulations.

The federal minimum wage is a year behind West Virginia’s rate. The federal pay is currently $5.85 an hour and will increase to $6.55 in July 2008 and $7.25 in July 2009.

“We felt we needed to take a step in the right direction and give everyone hopefully a living wage,” Stalnaker said of the state wage hike.

Many businesses that are exempt from the minimum wage increase raised their pay anyway to give workers a living wage. An increase in minimum wage cuts into a business’ profit margin, which could especially affect small businesses, he said.

“The prices go up to reflect the increase in minimum wage,” Stalnaker said. “So many businesses work on a small percentage of profit; I’m sure they’ll have to adjust their prices to accommodate the increase.”

He said it’s too early to determine the economic impact of the recent wage hike on West Virginia, but hopefully it will put more money in people’s pockets and in turn generate more revenue for the state.

Delegate Tim Manchin (D-43rd District) said the state minimum wage increase was necessary because the federal government wasn’t making any strides on the topic at the time. West Virginia’s House Bill 4023 was passed in early 2006, and other states had already started raising their minimum wage.

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