Vt. House Dems pass minimum wage boost, but it may not survive veto

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) A divided Vermont House Wednesday took preliminary action on a $15 minimum wage bill but fell short of the votes needed to sustain an expected veto.

The compromise bill passed 90 to 53 and was aimed at winning votes from moderate Democrats in order to pass the bill with a super-majority -- 100 votes or more -- that could withstand a veto from the governor.

A key sticking point for lawmakers on the path to $15 an hour is how fast to ramp up the increases. The current minimum wage in Vermont is $10.78 an hour. It goes up each year based on inflation and is projected to rise to around $11 next year. Using that current formula, it could take another 15 years -- way out in 2034 -- before it reaches $15.

The bill that passed the Senate earlier this year has a steeper annual increase, raising the rate to $11.50 next year and climbing steadily to the $15 mark in 2024, ten years ahead of the current pace.

"S. 23 continues our effort to put more money in the pockets of hard-working vulnerable Vermonters. Is this version of the bill my highest ideal for an increase to the minimum wage? No, but it's a solid sprint in the right direction," said Rep. Marybeth Redmond, D-Essex.

The bill approved Wednesday would slow the rate of increase slightly, moving to an estimated $11.25 next year and passing $15 by 2026. That's two years slower than the Senate plan.

"I just want to take it slow so that we minimize any possible negative effects. We will get there, we will help Vermonters. We're trying to help, it just will take us a little more time," said Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington.

A final House vote on the bill is expected Thursday, followed by a conference committee to hammer out differences with the Senate version.