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Legislative Notes for April 17, 2014

April 12, 2014

On Tuesday, the Vermont House began debate on raising the minimum wage that employers are required to pay to employees. This was a very difficult decision for me. I understand that no one except for high school or college kids could afford to live solely on the income generated from a job that pays minimum wage. With this said, I understand that many people that work these jobs and provide support to other family members also qualify or receive a multitude of state assistance. Items such as: food stamps, childcare assistance, housing assistance, fuel assistance and free dairy products. The value of these benefits in many cases exceeds $40,000 of actual pretax value per year. Therefore, when you add the value of the state benefits to the 40 hours per week at minimum wage pay, it would equate to just under $60000 per year in value. Many people with a salary in this range live a comfortable life.

On the other side of this issue were the businesses many of them just struggling to stay in business since the recession. There were points made on the floor that raising the wage as proposed would infuse $30 million dollars into the economy. I don’t doubt that if people make more money they are going to spend it. However, I did object to the premise that this was new money in the economy and that the legislature was once again forcing an unfunded mandate on business. The current minimum wage is $8.73 per hour which was just increased on January 1, 2014 by the cost of living increment. The bill proposed to increase the wage by another $1.37 per hour to a total of $10.10 per hour on January 1, 2015. I felt it was important to support an increase in the minimum wage but, it had to strike the right balance between employer’s ability to pay and employees need for additional compensation. As a result an amendment was offered that would have raised the rate over a three year period to $10.10 per hour thus giving the employee a much needed raise and the employer time to budget for these increases. Unfortunately the amendment was defeated and the majority stayed with the position of a $1.37 increase in one year, with no consideration on the impact on the very people it is meant to help, or on small business, the backbone of Vermont, made it impossible for me to support this bill. I am hopeful that the Senate will improve this bill so that I can support it in the future.

I look forward to representing you and your concerns in Montpelier. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I am very interested in hearing from you. During the session, I can be reached at the Statehouse by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My email address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. My web-site address is http://www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.

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