Pennsylvania legislation to hike minimum wage draws both praise, criticism

Pennsylvania legislation to hike minimum wage draws both praise, criticism

The state Senate has passed legislation to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania from $7.25 per hour to $9.50 per hour by 2022, but the move, which now heads to the state House for consideration, does not have universal support.

Raising the minimum wage “will cut off access to work experience for those trying to enter or re-enter the workforce, such as teenagers and former inmates, halting economic progress in its tracks for many Pennsylvanians,” Commonwealth Foundation Vice President & COO Nathan Benefield charged in a statement.

“Instead of pushing counterproductive wage mandates, policymakers should focus on proven ways to boost economic opportunity for all, including enacting commonsense spending limits to prevent tax hikes, lowering Pennsylvania’s extreme corporate tax rate to promote job growth, and cutting licensing requirements so low-income earners can start their own businesses and control their own futures,” Benefield added.

The Keystone State is one of 21 states where the minimum wage is set to the federal rate, “while half of the states have authorized an automatic future wage increase of some sort,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, said in a tweet. “Senate Bill 79 is a responsible approach to increase the minimum wage rate incrementally.”

“Pennsylvania residents – especially those in my community – have indicated that they support raising the minimum wage in a way that is not disruptive for small employers,” Corman said in a news release. “Compromise is not a four-letter word. You know what is? Zero. Zero is what you get when you don’t compromise. This bill reflects a compromise that will help low-wage earners and reflect the economic realities … small employers face.”

A 2018 Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) analysis found there were 23,000 people out of 101 million working full time and earning between $7.25 and $8 per hour, according to Corman. Another 89,000 people worked part-time and fell within that hourly wage rate range.

 

“I’ve heard from those who wanted more that it’s not enough,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said on the Pennsylvania Newsmakers program. "I’ve heard from some that it’s too much, and I think that we just need to dig into the issues and see what reforms can come with it."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has called for an increase in the minimum wage. A previous proposal would have increased the minimum wage to $12 per hour on July 1 and $15 per hour by 2025.

“We know that over 30 percent of college students go hungry because they can’t afford proper nutrition,” first lady Frances Wolf said in a release after touring Penn State’s student-run food pantry. “We also know that many of these students carry jobs in addition to their studies. Raising the commonwealth’s minimum wage would help these struggling students meet their basic needs so they can succeed in school and get the skills they need to attain jobs after graduation.”

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