RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A planned minimum wage increase for Virginians will still take place next January, after a Republican challenge was defeated in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

Legislation passed during former Governor Ralph Northam’s term set a schedule of minimum wage increases that will see the minimum wage increase each year until it reaches $15 an hour, at which point it will receive annual adjustments for inflation.

But SB 173, patroned by State Senator Mark Peake (R – Lynchburg), would freeze the minimum wage at it’s current level, $11 an hour. The bill eliminates planned increases over the next few years and provisions that would see the minimum wage increase with inflation starting in 2026.

Peake said that while many businesses in urban areas already pay more than the minimum wage as a result of staffing shortages, that’s not true everywhere, “The rural areas, it’s a real problem.”

Senator David Marsden (D – Burke) said he would oppose the repeal, because the current minimum wage – adjusted for inflation – is well below the peak of the minimum wage in 1968.

The minimum wage in 1968 was $1.60 an hour. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $12.82 an hour – nothing to sneeze at.

“Freezing it at $11 falls short of that goal for me,” Marsden said.

“I have enormous respect for Senator Marsden,” said Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R – Yorktown). “And it’s hard for me to believe he’s been on the wrong side of this for so many years.”

The proposal was shot down by a party-line vote, 12-3, meaning the minimum wage increase will stay in place – for now.