Gov. Tom Wolf, in his 2017-18 state budget proposal, proposed taking 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.
The Associated Press reports that bringing the minimum wage up to that level would be one of the nation’s highest state-level wages in 2018.
Every neighbor of Pennsylvania has increased its minimum wage. Ohio has raised its minimum wage to $8.15 and New York to $9.70 an hour. Voters in some predominantly Republican states – like Nebraska and South Dakota – have also backed a minimum wage increase.
Wolf says this raise will save $100 million in social and human services costs which will come from reduced demand because of that increase, according to AP reports.
The governor has also said it would flush an extra $95 million in income taxes into the state treasury.
If the proposal moves forward it will impact nearly 1 million workers.
In an online poll on www.thecourierexpress.com, nearly 58 percent of those who participated disagreed with the wage hike and 36 percent agreed. Approximately 6 percent were unsure.
When we engaged our readers about what their opinions were about the proposed raise we received hundreds of reactions.
Among them were business owners, such as the newly retired Sam Mollica, who was the former owner of Ponderosa Steakhouse in DuBois, who said, “As a former business owner I had experienced many minimum wage increases since 1979 – it was $2.90 then. You can cope with the raise by raising prices, outsourcing, changing the way you do business or just close, which is sometimes the result. It also raises your payroll cost – FICA and workers comp expense – tremendously.”
Other business owners like Robert Strong, of Brookville, and owner of Strong’s Painting and Pressure Washing in DuBois, asked how the $12 came to be, saying “How does Tom Wolf know how much value a laborer is to me and what he is worth? It’s none of the government’s business what I pay my guys. The value they bring to my company determines how much I pay them. Mind your own business!”
By comparison, other business owners, such as Dave Glass, of Clearfield, who is the president of Ogden Legacy Inc., a local insurance agency, said, “I’m for it, in stages, although I think I’d rather there were some layers for teens vs. adults. $7.25 is not nearly enough to live on today. A raise to min. wage is frankly long overdue.”
Many responded that the hefty increase wasn’t fair as others won’t see an increase, and others still were concerned that raising the minimum wage provides no incentive for those workers to grow and excel.
“Bringing the bottom up only brings the top down. Not everyone will see the increase,” said Aron Tewilliger, of Brockway.
Many still were concerned that the rapid and sizable increase would have a major impact on goods and services that the average person won’t be able to handle. While others argued it will stimulate the economy by giving people more purchasing power.
“How will McDonald’s afford to pay an extra $5 an hour per employee? Raise the prices of their food.... Money doesn’t grow on trees,” said Katie Boyer, of Falls Creek. “Minimum wage earners still won’t be able to afford what they want, and people who didn’t get raises because they made more than $12 will now also be poor.”
By comparison, David McLaughlin, of Brockway, echoed this sentiment, saying “My suggestion is for anyone who opposes the raise tries to live on the 7.25 an hour wage, that amounts to $290 a week if you are lucky enough to get 40 hours. Then pay for rent or home, transportation, utilities, insurance, taxes and then tell me you don’t need a raise.”
Three weeks of budget hearings began Feb. 20. A final budget is due by June 30.