By Angelo Lynn
Score a small victory for Vermont’s Democratic Legislature as they managed to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of the recently passed minimum wage bill.
The proposal increases the minimum wage from $10.78 an hour to $12.55 by 2022, with future increases tied to inflation or at 5%. At the current 3% inflation, the minimum wage would have increased about 33 cents in 2021 had the law not passed, and slightly more the year after. Bottom line: the increase is not going to break the budgets of many businesses — small, rural or otherwise.
The increase does, however, help Vermont workers. In annual terms, a worker making $10.96 per hour at 40 hours a week makes about $22,797; that’s compared to $24,461 for someone making $11.76 (first year of the increase) and $26,104 at $12.55 per hour. That extra $3,200-plus dollars (year two) makes a difference to workers paying rent, and if added to a household income, that’s $6,400 for a couple.
As importantly, it’s money that will also go immediately back into the local economy for day-to-day necessities.
Knowing that, Vermonters should look more closely at Gov. Scott’s stated reason for his veto. “It’s critical to recognize that we share the goal of Vermonters making more money,” Scott said when he vetoed the bill. “I also believe Vermonters should keep more of what they earn, which is why I can’t support policies that increase the cost of living. I believe this legislation would end up hurting the very people it aims to help.”
To give him the benefit of the doubt, Scott’s thinking is that increased wages will prompt businesses to cut the number of minimum wage jobs (and thus hurt some workers), but with a full-employment economy workers aren’t likely to feel any negative impact; and the bit about “keeping more of what they earn” can only refer to owners, not employees.
We do agree with Gov. Scott that, as he said, “It’s now more important than ever to… focus on policies that actually grow the economy, make Vermont more affordable, attract more to our workforce to reverse our demographic crisis, and help workers move up the economic ladder with more skills for better paying jobs.”
This bill does much of what Scott said. Too bad he chose not to support it, and that he has been so slow over the past three years to build Vermont’s economy. Rather, what we’ve seen is a steady decline in the number of Vermonters employed.
Angelo Lynn is the editor and publisher of the Addison County Independent, a sister publication to the Mountain Times.