An increase to the state's minimum wage took another step toward approval Thursday.
The House Finance Committee spent about an hour debating the bill, which would incrementally increase the minimum wage over the next two years. Members eventually passed a committee substitute by a vote of 20-2. Delegates Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, and Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, cast the dissenting votes.
"I would say we're missing some critical information here for us to look at to consider this topic properly," Cowles said. "We don't know what the impact is on the poverty level, if there could be some savings. We don't know the impact on jobs. We haven't asked for a jobs impact (statement) on this bill."
The committee substitute for House Bill 4283 raises the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8 effective Jan. 1, 2015. The wage will then increase another 75 cents effective Jan. 1, 2016.
It also changes the training wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.40 an hour.
Restaurant owners would actually see their contributions toward certain workers' hourly wages go down.
If a restaurant owner can show the worker earns 70 percent of his or her wages through tips, they would see a "credit" increase from 20 percent to 70 percent.
"The 70 percent is more favorable to the employer than the 20 percent, said committee counsel Alice Chakmakian. "Twenty percent credit means they are paying 80 percent of minimum wage. Seventy percent credit means they pay 30 percent of minimum wage."
John Junkins, acting commissioner of the state Division of Labor, said about 600,000 people participate in West Virginia's private-sector work force. Of those, about 26 percent work a minimum wage job.
"You look at every restaurant, every gas station, a lot of grocery stores," Junkins said. "There is a majority of business in this state that pay not all of their employees but some of their employees minimum wage."