Raise State’s Minimum Wage Soon
Millions of workers across the United States have begun the new year with a brighter outlook because their state legislatures or local governments, or both, have mandated higher minimum wages. In Pennsylvania, however, Republican legislative majorities cling to hoary and discredited notions, promulgated by narrow special interests, that boosting the minimum wages will harm workers and the economy. Due to that political cowardice, Pennsylvania remains an island of poverty-level wages at the bottom rung of the ladder. It’s minimum wage is the federal minimum of $7.25, which was established in 2009. State lawmakers shamelessly have maintained that Bob Cratchit-like minimum wage while ensuring that their own compensation automatically increases each year without a debate or vote. Pennsylvania is surrounded by states that have raised their minimum wages over the last several years, yet have not experienced the economic calamity that supposedly flows from such sensible policy. Nationwide, 20 states have raised their minimum wages with the dawn of the new year, from a nickel-an-hour in Alaska to $1-an-hour in Maine, Massachusetts and California. In several conservative states, notably Arkansas and Missouri, voters mandated significant wage increases by referendum after legislators declined to act. And more than 20 large cities have raised base wages beyond the state levels. Gov. Tom Wolf likely will propose a minimum-wage increase in his budget address in February. State lawmakers should adopt one as a simple matter of economic justice. For them, doing so would produce the bonus of reduced reliance on expensive state-funded social services and increases in state income and sales tax revenues.