Wolf renews bid to put state’s minimum wage among highest
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf rolled out a second-term proposal Wednesday to vault Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to one of the highest in the nation after similar first-term proposals by the Democrat fell flat in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Wolf wants to take the hourly minimum to $12 this year, putting Pennsylvania in line with the highest state minimum wages, according to federal data. Pennsylvania also would join a handful of states by eliminating its tipped wage minimum, now $2.83, under legislation being introduced with Wolf’s support.
Those steps would boost pay for a million workers and provide more than $100 million in annual savings in state programs for the poor, Wolf said.
“Today too many people are working harder and harder and they still can’t afford basics like food and transportation and shelter,” Wolf told a crowded news conference in his Capitol reception room. “Despite working full time, too many people still need help from public benefits programs to get by.”
Wolf’s proposal includes annual 50-cent increases to bring the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2025, lifting Pennsylvania into a group with 17 other states that have scheduled annual adjustments written into law.
Washington, D.C., and some cities have boosted their minimum wages to above $12 an hour, but Pennsylvania law forbids its municipalities from setting a local wage rate.
Since 2009, Pennsylvania has remained at the $7.25 federal minimum, one of 21 states to do so. The other 29 states, including each of Pennsylvania’s neighbors, have boosted their minimum wages to above the federal minimum.
Raising the minimum wage has backing from labor unions, Democratic lawmakers and some moderate Republicans, and public polling shows it tends to rate well among voters.
However, it is opposed by leaders of the House and Senate Republican majorities and business groups, including the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The chamber warned that the governor’s plan, by requiring such steep wage hikes, is “disconnected from reality for many Pennsylvania employers.” Restaurants operating on thin profit margins would see wages rise by more than 500 percent, it said.
Employers, particularly small businesses, will be forced to lay off workers, raise prices, cut back hours or trim benefits to stay afloat, business groups warn. Higher wages also could cut into a business owner’s ability to invest in capital or an expansion, they say.
A targeted state-level earned income tax credit may better focus support to where it is needed, to a low-income parent, and avoid the negative impact of a broader wage increase, said Alex Halper of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.
Wolf’s administration is also considering a regulation to boost pay for hundreds of thousands of salaried employees by making them eligible for overtime pay.
It has been reviewing feedback on it after holding a public comment period last year, and Wolf said Wednesday that he remained committed to it to prevent employers from skirting overtime regulations by shifting hourly workers to salaried.