HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania has not raised its minimum wage in 14 years. For almost that long there have been bills to boost it, but none that moved in the Republican-controlled legislature.
Now, a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 passed the House of Representatives.
House Bill 1500 would make Pennsylvania’s minimum wage $15, eventually.
The minimum wage would jump to $11 an hour in January 2024, $13 the January after that, and by New Year’s Day 2026 — $15 an hour.
“I have introduced a wage bill every session,” said State Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin/Cumberland Counties).
Kim has put maximum effort into the minimum wage for a decade. Now that a bill is moving is exciting, but she says delaying $15 for three more years is too slow.
“After the ten years of being in the minority and having scars to prove it, I have had to come to the realization that something is better than nothing. And I hate to say that. I hate to tell that to the wait, the hardworking people out there,” Kim added.
“Everyone deserves to make a living wage. The problem is, is that you know, this is government telling business what to do. And I believe in the free market,” said Rep. Valerie Gaydos (R-Allegheny County).
Republicans call the minimum wage hike government intrusion and insist that the poorest earners would be the hardest hit as some employers hire less, lay people off or close up shop.
“When we look at other states, every time you do raise that minimum wage, there are negative impacts in terms of job losses, especially in places like the restaurant and hospitality industries,” added Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh County).
Speaking of other states, all of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have higher minimum wages while Pennsylvania’s hasn’t budged in 14 years. Is that embarrassing?
“What are your parents always saying when you grow up? If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge also?” asked Gaydos.
HB 1500 might be a bridge too far for the Senate. Majority Leader Joe Pittman didn’t slam the door but did say this.
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“The minimum wage, I think, is a conversation to be had. But I can tell you that $15 an hour is not a practical number in any way to get to,” Pittman said.
Practically speaking, Kim concedes very few people make minimum wage, but feels it’s important nonetheless.
“I am so glad to see businesses raising it up to $15 an hour, but we have to make sure that floor is secure so it doesn’t fall back down and people fall into this vortex of painful poverty,” Kim said.
The conventional wisdom at the Capitol is that the minimum wage will go up not just because of the bill, but because it’s part of the budget deal. But likely not as much as the Democrats passed.