House committee approves $15 minimum wage after feisty debate

Michael Bielawski/TNR

GETTING HEATED: Discussions grew tense at points as members of the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs debated whether to have a cap on the percentage that the minimum wage can be allowed to go up annually.

MONTPELIER — The General Housing and Military Affairs Committee on Friday voted 7-3-1 to approve the Senate-passed $15 minimum wage by 2024.

Committee members spent a fair amount of time discussing a proposal to stretch out the implementation of the wage a few years beyond the 2024 target set by the original Senate bill.

Rep. Matt Birong, D-Vergennes, proposed that instead of fixed increments starting next year and working up to $15 in 2024, the rise would be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and then multiplied by 2.5. This would mean whatever the rate of inflation for the year, that percentage multiplied by 2.5 is the amount the minimum wage would rise for the next year.

A key component of this proposal was for a 5 percent cap, meaning if the CPI multiplied by 2.5 is more than a 5 percent increase, that’s where it stops. A cap already exists with the current minimum wage law.

That compares to data which indicated the progression towards a 2024 $15 minimum wage, as passed by the Senate, is estimated to rise at 6.5 to 7.5 percent per year. After the committee disbanded, Birong told True North that constituents are telling him the increase is too fast.

“[It’s About] 7 percent a year with nothing taken into consideration for an economic downturn. A lot of business owners, including those that support concepts like family leave and paid sick days, they were coming to me with a lot of concerns about the timeline,” he said.

According to the timeline in the bill, the new minimum wage would be $11.50 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2020. It then rises to $12.25 in 2021, $13.10 in 2022, $14.05 in 2023, and $15 in 2024.

Under Birong’s plan for the wage to go up 2.5 times the CPI with a 5 percent cap, the wage would hit $15.17 in 2026, about two years longer than the Senate version.

An uncontested feature of Friday’s discussion was that the goal is to get the wage up to what would be considered a “livable wage.” In a prior session the idea was strongly contested by Rep. Marianna Gamache, R-Swanton, and Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce President Bill Moore.

The livable wage in 2019 dollars is considered to be $13.36. Under Birong’s plan, Vermont’s minimum wage would reach that mark in 2027, when it hits $15.93 — 2027’s inflation-adjusted equivalent to today’s $13.36.

When it came time to make a decision on Birong’s proposal, Rep. Joseph “Chip” Troiano, D-Stannard, noted that he’s OK with the 2.5 CPI measure but not the 5 percent cap.

Gamache protested that a cap is necessary.

“You can’t do something like this without a cap,” she said. “There are two parts to this equation: There are the workers, the employees who need to earn a living, and then you have the employers, be it private or state, that are the suppliers of the money. You cannot talk about one without the other.”

Troiano noted based on current economic trends he does not foresee an immediate economic crisis that would accelerate inflation in the near future.

“You can predict based on the past and say that it’s unlikely according to these figures that we will arrive or bump a 5 percent cap in the next six years,” he said.

Gamache agreed with that assessment but continued to advocate for a better-safe-than-sorry approach.

“That’s not a given; there are strange things that happen, and if you lock yourself in without any kind of flexibility, that’s gonna be a huge problem,” she said.

Rep. Lisa Hango, R-Berkshire, indicated she also thinks there should be a cap.

“Another part of this is that I highly doubt the cost of goods is gonna go down, or the cost of services or transportation,” she said. “I just feel like we really need to contain this somehow. I’m concerned for employers.”

While there was no formal vote on the proposal, Rep. Mary Howard, D-Rutland; Rep. Tommy Walz, D-Washington; and Rep. John Killacky, D-South Burlington, each indicated that they prefer the Senate’s original timeline for a progression to $15 an hour by 2024.

The committee ultimately decided to vote on the bill after lunch with the Senate timeline for $15 minimum wage by 2024.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

17 thoughts on “House committee approves $15 minimum wage after feisty debate

  1. Do you suppose these Montpelier geniuses considered the cost of goods and services will rise, prompting Vermonters to do business elsewhere? Suppose potential employers will want to start or grow a business here in Vermont? With Vermonts ridiculous levels of tax and regulations, why not set up shop in NH, or anywhere else? This legislation is short sighted and illogical to the point of being moronic.

  2. If you want a livable wage you have to think about what things you could do that would pay
    a livable wage. Ideally this would happen at about age 14. Legislators constantly are working to pad the entire world with things that eliminate any need to plan ahead, make a wise choice, or suffer the consequences.

    Seems to me our legislators are picking up speed. They’ve totally lost any sense of humility. These people truly think they rival God and should have their dirty fingers in EVERY part of our lives. Shame on them for constantly messing with…..EVERYTHING.

  3. If $15.00 is good, why not $18.00 or $20.00? What difference does it make if being arbitrary about this subject is the means to get to a point?

    Arbitrary it is, and by doing it this way, in a couple of years they will come back and say “Oh it needs to go up some more”.

    THe frog in hot water routine ain’t it.
    These boneheads just never quit until they use up all of the producers’ money, and that is coming fast. When savings is used to pay taxes and fees, WE ARE OUTA HERE AND WE ARE TAKING OUR GUNS WITH US!!!

  4. I think they just made it more logical to drive to NH to do shopping. Even shopping in NY is going to be cheaper. — All for the benefit of those who want more money without improving their skills and knowledge, like the rest of did to get more and have a better life.

    • We in New Hampshire will have to start charging a toll.We have no income or sales tax so our roads are worse than those of Beirut.

      • Jerry: You clearly haven’t driven (or lived) in Vermont recently. My son moved to NH and chastises me for not moving there too. And driving across the river on NH roads to visit is quite nice to boot.

        NH’s average income (in the top ten nationally) is higher than VT’s.

        NH is 4th lowest taxed state. VT is the 4th highest taxed states in the country.

        NH’s work force is expanding – VT’s is declining. And NH’s job growth is increasing while Vermont has gained only 273 jobs over the last ten years.

        Meanwhile – NH’s minimum wage is still only $7.25/hr and VT’s is one of the highest in the country.

        What’s not to like in NH?

        • I get the best of two worlds. Lived in H 21 years, and a resident. Hate the winters so go to the Pensacola FL area just across the line in AL. Beautiful country and people.

          Problem, have family property since 1953, a constant tax fight. Might sell out to Mexicans or NYC blacks and bring liberals into the real world. Nothing against them, but am against the taxing town and state.

          VT and NH is like the old East Germany and West Germany, thankfully no Check Point Charlie.

          • Ya you know it’s tough being in the south during the winters. The snow souls in the north get sunburn of skin exposed shoveling AND Cabin Fever. In the south we get sunburn anytime. If on the beach the sun hits you three ways: Direct sun, reflection off the water and reflection from the whitest beach sand in the world, miles of white beach.

            Life is tough being 1500 miles from cabin fever, less expensive and NO liberals.

            Sorry, this is more utopia than the LIbs want in VT.

  5. “Rep. Matt Birong, D-Vergennes, proposed that instead of fixed increments starting next year and working up to $15 in 2024, the rise would be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and then multiplied by 2.5. This would mean whatever the rate of inflation for the year, that percentage multiplied by 2.5 is the amount the minimum wage would rise for the next year.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice to get this “raise” in SS? I haven’t had any increase in 5 years. If a paltry increase the Gov increases Medicare & Medicare payment amount, walla gone-none-zilch. And I have to pay for VA medical.

  6. Congratulations Golden Dome idiots. You have maneuvered to control all aspects of human traffic, living and money, and now you are controlling private business. You’ll find out the min wage will hurt wage earners more. You expect more taxes because of it. It’s all about money for the greedy Domesters.

    Yet I believe your lives arn’t so prosperous and well meaning, Liberals can’t and never smile. proves “what’s yours in mine, what’s mine is mine”.

    The Dome is like Hitler’s bunker and a black hole, nothing comes out alive.

  7. Don’t all the people who already make $15/hr need to get a raise if the new guy is now paid $15 and you have 5 years seniority…and everyone all the way up the line?

    • Good grief Lee – stop using logic. The ‘P’s’ and ‘D’s’ in Montpelier have no need for logic, and when they’re presented with it, they remind you how much more intelligent they are than you.

      Look at Troiano – he came to us from NY and studied photography at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and Social Science at Lyndon State College. Now he’s an economics genius by virtue of his presence in the State House.

  8. It’s all about the Agenda, slackers crying for more money!!

    You vote these Liberals into office …………. Shameless Fools.

    • “It’s all about the Agenda”

      ASSAULT Agenda CH, You gotta give it the shock word like the gun grabbers do. Only it’s true
      in this case as it Assaults your pocket book 100% more then A AR-15 ever assaulted anyone.

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