HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — Unlike each of its neighboring states, Pennsylvania still aligns with the federal $7.25 an hour minimum wage, which was last increased in 2009. Pushing for a higher minimum wage in the commonwealth has been a top priority for many, especially Democrats, over the past 14 years.
“The current $7.25 an hour is absolutely unacceptable,” said House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie), adding the state is overdue for an increase. “Folks who’ve been working minimum wage jobs for years should have received an increase a number of years ago.”
Some Republicans argue that market forces have driven up wages on their own and that there is no need for government interference. Bizzarro says that may be true, but argues a statutory increase would protect many employees.
“We hear all the time ‘well most people are paying more than minimum wage,’ well, that might be true, but there’s nothing that can stop them from rolling back to $7.25 an hour in Pennsylvania tomorrow, if these employers wanted to,” said Bizzarro.
Additionally, Bizzarro says certain sectors are impacted more than others. Many smaller organizations and businesses have had a difficult time competing with larger corporations who have been able to increase their wages.
“Home care workers and other nonprofits that take care of individuals, they have a tougher time. So, we are tasked with handling it on both fronts. We’ve got to make sure that people are getting paid a wage where they can survive,” said Bizzarro. “But also, we have to do our part on figuring out how to properly fulfill the void for reimbursements and ensure that these organizations are getting additional funding after the budget process,” he added.
Now, 14 years after an increase, Pennsylvania has a Democratic controlled House and a proposed $15 per hour minimum wage in Governor Josh Shapiro’s budget. The question is, does an increase stand a chance in the Republican controlled Senate?
“I think there’s a good shot at that,” said Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie). “I think we’ll have support in the House for that, obviously, so really the challenge will be just moving it through the Senate,” Laughlin added.
Laughlin serves as chair of the Senate Majority Policy Committee and has consistently advocated for a higher minimum wage. He says it’s necessary and could also help Republicans in the next election cycle.
“However we do it, and for whatever reason, it really doesn’t matter as long as we get it done,” said Laughlin, who plans to introduce another bill this session to gradually raise the minimum wage and tie it to inflation so that the issue doesn’t persist time and time again, as it has for the past 14 years.