Is $15 Minimum Wage the Magic Answer?

Senate leader, Tim Ashe of Chittenden County, has indicated a $15 per hour minimum wage for Vermont is a high priority for him this coming session. A timetable for the increase has not been established by the legislative study committee looking at the issue.

Virtually all members of the Legislature support Vermonters earning higher wages. However, a new law from Montpelier does not necessarily provide a magic answer. Vermont already has one of the highest minimum wages in the country ($10.50 effective January 1, 2018) yet has a lower than average hourly wage. Our neighbors to the east, New Hampshire, for example, just follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25, yet has a higher average wage than Vermont. The reason is likely a stronger economy creating more competition among employers seeking staff.

One study in Seattle, which has increased the city’s minimum wage to $13, reports a 9% reduction in hours to workers in jobs paying $13-$19 per hour as a result of employers trying to mitigate some of the impact of a higher minimum.

One may question if this is a politically motivated proposal to move Vermont to the top of the minimum wage competition and somehow try to embarrass Governor Scott in an election year if he opposes the measure. Stay tuned for what could be a politically charged issue in the coming months.

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