Tomblin signs wage increase bill

CHARLESTON – Despite acknowledging the state’s minimum wage bill contained “unintended consequences” – namely changing how overtime is paid to all workers – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday dismissed the business community’s concerns by signing the flawed bill into law.

The new law, which will raise the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour by 2016, also changes how overtime is paid in West Virginia. In Wheeling alone, city taxpayers could be forced to pay an additional $400,000 annually in overtime to police and firefighters.

Businesses also have a short time-frame to figure out how to comply with the changes, which take place June 6.

Among other problems, the law removes the overtime exemption status for police and firefighters, for computer professionals and for those making more than $100,000 annually.

Tomblin said he met with legislative leaders before signing the bill about the problems and how they could be fixed. However, once lobbying efforts begin, there is no certainty the bill will be fixed.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Glen Dale, has acknowledged the problems with the bill but urged the governor to sign it anyway.

Tomblin “did the right thing to help the working men and women of this great state,” Kessler said. “This important piece of legislation puts more money in the pockets of hard-working West Virginians and I am proud to stand with the governor in supporting them. The people of this great state that go to work every day to support themselves and their families deserve to make a living wage.”

According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, more than 127,000 working West Virginians will benefit from raising the minimum wage.

This increase will help raise wages by more than $156 million over the next two years.