DuBOIS — The proposed minimum wage increase in Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2017-18 state budget was one of the topics at the Greater DuBois Area Chamber’s Business Connections luncheon featuring speaker Gene Barr, CEO and president of the the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.
Wolf’s proposal would take Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from the federally-established $7.25 per hour to $12 per hour.
It has held at the $7.25 per hour level since 2009 and is one of 20 states currently at that level.
“We had been fighting that not because I don’t think people should make as much money as they possible can, because they do,” said Barr. “The federal tax reform that was passed. It was a great illustration of how it’s supposed to work. Federal government allowed you to keep more money, you as business people.”
That is the way it should work, he said.
“Right after that happened, you saw the litany of companies that was reported, who’ve offered raises, who’ve increased the minimum wage, the starting wage for their people. That’s how it’s supposed to work. We don’t get prosperous through government,” Barr said.
One of the major problems that the PCBI sees with the proposed minimum wage increase is that $12 an hour in DuBois is a different wage than $12 an hour in Manhattan, N.Y.
“It works completely differently. You cannot mandate prosperity,” Barr said.
Another issue is that the average small business person in the U.S. takes home approximately $54,000.
“You’re going to mandate to the small business person, who is struggling to keep his or her small business alive,” Barr said. “Many of you own your own businesses, many of you work in small businesses, you know how difficult it can be. So you know how tough it can be when you have to face new mandates.”
Barr said minimum wage is an entry level wage to bring people in the business, getting them to understand how to work with people, how to understand the business, how to interact with customers, how to learn all the flow of business. He said it’s not right that a small business has to pay a high school kid $12 to $15 an hour.
“If we got somebody who is really struggling, is a single parent with a couple of kids, has to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, there are better ways of getting them that,” Barr said. “Earned income tax credit is a better way.”
Barr said the chambers will be working to combat the push for $12 to $15 an hour for minimum wage.
“I think people should be paid as much as they possibly can. The market from area to area will drive that,” Barr said. “It’s as crazy as trying to say, ‘Have a minimum housing price.’ That’s ridiculous.”
Barr said the governor is committed to it and the Chamber organization is going to continue to fight it because it believes it’s not an appropriate way to proceed.