Minimum wage to increase in Pennsylvania in 2017

Alex Lloyd Gross Photo Delaware Valley Governor Wolf

By Alex Lloyd Gross

Currently, the State of Pennsylvania is in the dark ages and behind the times, when it comes to paying workers that are working on the bottom end of the pay scale. Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25 per hour and that is exactly what the state minimum wage is.  Many that work for $7.25 an hour call it “starvation wage or even “slave wage” and when it comes down it it, they may not be that far off. Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his 2017 budget and in it was a proposal to increase the wage to $12.00 per hour.

While the thought is there and that number may make some people happy and infuriate others, it’s not a done deal. According to Jay J. Abbott, the press liaison for the Governor, “He thinks it’s about time to get the state in line with the rest of the country, there is a huge push to raise the minimum wage and the Governor is intent on helping out those at the bottom end of the pay scale”, he said.  The amount that the state wage would go up may not be $12.00 but in fact it may go to about $10.00. “We are going to work with the General Assembly, to insure this gets done”,  Abbott said.

There is a push nationwide to raise it to $15.00 and with the election of Donald Trump, it is doubtful that it will happen.  He nominated Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary. He has come out against raising the minimum wage by anything more than a few pennies, which will have zero impact on low income workers. in the mean time, Puzder gets paid millions of dollars per year to own Hardees and Carl’s Jr, food restaurants. As CEO, he had no problem paying upwards of $4,000,000 to run commercials like this during the 2016 Super Bowl. Many have called it sexist.

Puzder is not confirmed but if he is, he will hold down wages and after his term is up, go back to work negotiating millions of dollars in deals, and be hailed as a hero among executives that employee minimum wage workers, as the man help helped make their bonuses even larger.  Puzder said it should be a state issue for the minimum wage and wants to abolish it. Even Trump came out and said it should be at least $10.00. Puzder opposes even that modest increase.

Alex Lloyd Gross
Alex Lloyd Gross

A look around the region shows PA is severely lagging. NJ is $8.38 but was poised to jump to $15.00 with bi-partisan support. That was  shot down by Governor Chris Christie but will be revisited when he leaves office. Delaware $8.25 per hour, Maryland $10.25 per hour, NYC $15.00 per hour and NYS $10.50 per hour.  Proponents of this agree that when someone gets $290.00 per week and then they get a raise to $480.00 per week, they get breathing room for their bills. That means they can have some discretionary spending. That in turn means they are less likely to have to turn to public assistance, like SNAP benefits or welfare.  Or at the very least have their public assistance curtailed or reduced. They become part of the tax base and not part of the problem.

The stereotype of a 17 year old at a fast food counter as the person who benefits from a minimum wage increase is not entirely true. Sure, they exist, but the majority of the people working for $9.00 or less at people that were forced to take a second job. They are adults, 35 or over with children. A bump in their paycheck would help them tremendously, according to the governor..

Opponents of this will argue that it will put them out of business. That too is a fallacy. In states where the minimum wage is $15.00 per hour,  business are flourishing and very few business have gone under.  Workers have more money to spend.  Opponents say that prices will go up.  That was proven to be not true as when people spend more, profits increase and there is no need to raise prices in places where the  minimum wage is $15.00 per hour. this was found to be true.

Currently, a 40 hour work week in Philly gets you $290.00. By the time taxes get taken out,  you get $185.00 , if you are lucky.  Meanwhile, the pay for a legislator has risen to over $85,000 per year. Most businesses in Pennsylvania  will pay about $9.00 per hour for entry level. Anything less than that is considered a minimum wage job.  For Pennsylvania to be competitive  , the state must raise the pay to at least $11.00 per hour.

According to Abbott, it’s not a done deal yet. The General Assembly must approve it. “There has been talk on both sides of the isle to get this raised. Some think $15.00 is too steep and others think $9.00 is not nearly enough. Governor Wolf said that $12.00 meets those people right in the middle”.