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Maximum debate over raising the minimum wage - abc27 WHTM

Maximum debate over raising the minimum wage

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

From the Big Apple to Hollywood, fast food employees put down the burgers and picked up picket signs. Wage workers protested for higher pay in about 100 cities across the country.

On Thursday afternoon, State Representative Patty Kim (D-Dauphin) officially introduced her bill that would increase the state minimum wage. Kim's bill aims to raises wages from $7.25 an hour to $9.00, $10.10 the following year. Kim said wages would increase for tipped serves as well.

"These guys are not even going to get rich off of it," said Kim. "It's just going to get them over the poverty line so that they can stay above water."

The freshman state lawmaker's goal finds herself in the national debate with support from the leader of the free world. President Obama spoke on Wednesday about raising the federal minimum wage, making this goal his administration's priority. 

"We know there are airport workers and fast food workers and nurse assistants and retail sales people who work their tails off and are living at or barely above poverty," said the President.

In Pennsylvania, Kim's bill would help full-time minimum wage workers earn an added $6,000 to their annual income. Currently, a full-time minimum wage worker earns roughly $15,000 a year. That figure is only $500 above the state poverty line, below the $19,500 poverty line for a family of three. The added earned wages would bump a full-time minimum wage employee slightly above with $21,000.

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) also spoke out Thursday about raising the federal minimum wage.

"Raising the minimum wage is about basic fairness and economic security for Pennsylvania's workers and families," Senator Casey said. "Congress should have an up or down vote on raising the minimum wage. Passing this bill will increase Pennsylvania's GDP by over $1 billion and add thousands of jobs. It will have positive economic impacts for the entire state not just those working for the minimum wage."

The National Restaurant Federation and other business leaders have spoken out against wage hikes. Critics argue increasing pay would force companies to freeze hiring, layoff less-skilled workers, and hurt the overall economy by impeding trickle down economics.

"That just makes no sense to me whatsoever," said Kim. "You have to reward the people who are working hard instead of putting them back into the poverty cycle. Let's get them out."

Kim understands doing so will be a battle. Pennsylvania has only raised the state minimum wage three times in the past 30 years. By comparison, state lawmakers and top officials have had 17 pay raises since the 1995 Automatic Cost of Living Adjustment came into play. Only in 2009 did state salaries remain stagnant.

Kim planned to give back her COLA increase this year. Her bill is now seeking co-sponsors. She believes the issue should be about giving back a little green, not about red or blue.

"It's a bipartisan issue," said Kim. "It's about families. It's allowing them to get above water and survive."

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