Force Builds For A Base Wage Hike
Pressure continues to accumulate for Pennsylvania to advance its regressive, laggard minimum wage. Last week, 38 economists and academics who live or teach in Pennsylvania signed in support of a letter initiated by the progressive Keystone Research Center and endorsing Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Wolf’s current budget proposal calls for a boost to $12 an hour in July and incremental advances to $15 by 2025. Pennsylvania’s minimum wage has been stuck at the federal minimum of $7.25 since it was established in 2009. Republican majorities in Harrisburg have blocked Wolf’s annual increase proposals since 2015 and root their opposition in dubious arguments that lifting the base wage would harm workers and the economy. Every state bordering Pennsylvania’s has had a minimum wage increase in recent years without massive layoffs, business closings and economic calamity that opponents say would accompany an increase here. Twenty states raised their minimum wage this year. A $12 minimum wage would raise pay for 1 million Pennsylvania workers this year, which would stimulate local economies. It also would generate more state tax revenue and Wolf projects it would reduce the state’s Medicaid costs by $36 million next year. Republican opposition to the increase seems to be softening after the party lost seats in the House and Senate in the November election. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, of Centre County, indicated in February that Republicans will consider the matter. Nearly 60 percent of workers would benefit from the increase are women and a $15 base wage would reduce the number of Pennsylvania children living in poverty by 58 percent, the Keystone Research Center estimates. Advancing the minimum wage is more than an economic and political issue. It’s a humanitarian, community and family matter.