Veto Minimum Wage Measure

If an attorney at a prestigious law firm is right, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has no choice but to veto a bill most legislators thought was a simple measure to increase the minimum wage. It turns out the proposal is far from simple – and would have pernicious effects for many employers and for taxpayers.

Legislators spent much of their regular session discussing the measure, House Bill 4283. In the end, lawmakers approved a bill most no doubt thought provided for relatively modest pay raises for those covered by existing minimum wage law. The idea was to increase the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $8.75 over a two-year period.

But there was quite a devil in the details of HB 4283.

If signed into law, the bill will affect far more people than those whose pay is regulated by current minimum wage law.

As we have reported, a lawyer at the Bowles Rice law firm examined HB 4283 and found it would cover all employers with six or more workers. Under current rules, employers are not required to comply with state minimum wage and maximum work hours mandates if 80 percent or more of their employees are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Most Mountain State companies fall under that exclusion.

But HB 4283 would wipe out the exemption.

Also in HB 4283 are new standards for overtime pay. It would expand requirements that overtime pay be given to many employees, including sales people who receive commissions and other professionals. Even “highly compensated” employees earning $100,000 or more could be covered by the overtime law.

Taxpayers would join private-sector employers in suffering. HB 4283 would expand overtime pay for workers such as firefighters and police officers.

It is inconceivable that the vast majority of legislators who voted for the measure understood what it would do. Again, most thought HB 4283 was a simple plan to increase the minimum wage for those covered by existing law. Clearly, those who drafted the legislation either made terrible mistakes – or intended to expand the state’s control over what people are paid.

Either way, implementation of HB 4283 would be a disaster for many companies. Some would have to lay off employees to compensate for the high personnel costs under the bill. It would be a catastrophe for local governments and taxpayers, too.

Again, Tomblin should veto the bill. Then, legislators should investigate how the monstrosity was foisted upon them.