House set to pass minimum wage bill

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(Host) On Thursday the Vermont House gave its preliminary approval to legislation that increases the state minimum wage and guarantees future increases through a cost of living index. The vote on the bill was 81 to 57.

Currently the state minimum wage is $7 an hour, compared to the federal wage rate of $5.25 an hour. The bill would increase the state rate by 25 cents an hour next January. Future increases would automatically go into effect every year based on the annual increase in overall state wages.

Londonderry Representative Rick Hube opposed the bill. Hube said it would hurt small businesses throughout the state and would make the state rate the highest in the country:

(Hube) “I think we’re on very dangerous ground. We have a very delicate economic climate in this state, tremendous pressures on the business community, on our friends and neighbors who are employing us and our neighbors. Between property taxes, utilities, workers’ comp, health care – very, very difficult. And I’m very concerned about the ability of this economy and the ability of our friends and neighbors to retain their jobs.”

(Host) Montpelier Representative Francis Brooks is the chairman of the House General Affairs committee. Brooks says bill is a way to provide some help for the state’s lowest paid workers. He says the minimum wage rate is an area where Vermont should be proud to be number one in the nation:

(Brooks) “You ask me, what is my consideration of being number one? It’s nice, I humbly accept it. I know that we could do better when number one doesn’t necessarily mean that we have done the best.”

(Host) The measure will come up for final approval in the House on Friday.

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