CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- House Democrats are proposing a $1 increase to West Virginia's minimum wage as part of a legislative agenda they say is designed to strengthen families, communities and the state's economy.
"The safety of our families and communities must be the bedrock upon which we build successful communities," said House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison.
House leaders began to unveil the final four planks of their 2014 legislative agenda Monday evening. The agenda is titled "FEED."
"FEED is an acronym for Families, Education, Energy, and Developing our economy," Miley said in a press release.
He said leadership would evaluate potential legislation this year by asking the following questions:
n Does it benefit families and communities?
n Does it expand academic opportunities for students and provide support to the educational system?
n Does it bolster the state's energy industry?
n Does it spark economic development in a meaningful way?
Some proposals were aimed at reducing the state's shortage of teachers — particularly in science, technology, engineering and math fields — as well as giving schools and law enforcement agencies more resources to tackle problems like truancy and child abuse and exploitation.
However, one proposal will likely come under scrutiny from business groups: raising the minimum wage.
"In order to provide strong families and communities, every worker must make a living wage to support themselves and their families," leadership wrote in the release.
Officials are proposing an incremental increase of $1 over an 18-month period.
That proposal would raise the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour — the current level mandated by the federal government — to $8.25 by 2016.
Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo, said in the release that many of his constituents in southern West Virginia supported the increase. He cited a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that said roughly two-thirds of Americans support increasing the federal minimum wage.
"Momentum is building at the federal and state level to increase hourly base pay," Marcum said. "We should do what we can to ensure a fair wage at the state level."
House Pensions & Retirement Committee vice chairman Ronnie Jones, D-Hancock, said many retirees are forced to supplement their income through minimum wage jobs in order to get by.