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Big hike in minimum wage sought by Pennsylvania Democrats

Democratic lawmakers and advocates argue for a minimum wage increase in the main rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol.
Ben Wasserstein
Democratic lawmakers and advocates argue for a minimum wage increase in the main rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

In 2006, Google purchased Youtube, Sony unveiled the Playstation 3 and Pennsylvania raised its minimum wage to $7.15.

In 2009, the federal government raised the wage slightly to $7.25.

Fifteen years later, Pennsylvania continues to use that federal minimum wage.

It is lower than all neighboring states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Sen. Christina Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, is introducing legislation to bump the minimum wage to $20. It would also set tipped wages at 70% of the minimum wage. Currently, tipped employees earn $2.83 per hour.

Tartaglione said this change is necessary.

“On $7.25, you can’t have food on your table, pay your rent,” she said. “You can’t pay for your medicine. This has to change.”

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, did not signal support for increasing the minimum wage, but rather supported increasing access to higher paying jobs.

“When you have a maximum wage job you have greater stability, can plan for the future, are able to maintain your home and can help your children thrive,” he wrote.

Alex Halper, senior vice president for government affairs at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said while well intentioned, raising the wage ignores the realities faced by some employers and non-profits and may lead to job losses.

He said the state should do more to bring business to the state.

“We should be prioritizing policies that enhance Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness and make our state a more attractive place to do business,” he said. “At the same time, lawmakers should get to work on policies that target support to low-income Pennsylvanians without risking job losses.”
In January, Gov. Josh Shapiro launched the state’s first economic development plan in nearly two decades.

The plan would devote millions to certain industries in order to entice businesses to come to Pennsylvania.

House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, was irate at the lack of change in the state’s minimum wage.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable that you can stand on your feet and take care of the vulnerable, and take care of the elderly, and take care of the sick, and have a variety of other jobs, and you are not paid a living decent wage,” she said.

The lawmakers were joined by union members and leaders to call for the increase.

While not every member earns minimum wage, such as teachers, all were concerned about low wages

Pennsylvania State Education Association member Christin Morris said many coworkers earn less than $15.

“I have met support staff who are parents who have to take on second or even third jobs, reducing the time that they can spend with their families,” she said.

This is not the first time this session legislation was proposed to increase the minimum wage.

A previous attempt by Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, to gradually increase the wage to $15 stalled in the Senate Labor and Industry committee, chaired by Sen. Devlin Robinson, R-Allegheny, in May.

Its House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia, in the Democratic controlled chamber passed, but has sat in the same Senate committee since June.