On Tuesday, Feb. 9, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf delivered his annual budget proposal to the State Legislature. Among the many proposals in the Governor’s 2016-2017 budget plan was a provision to raise the Commonwealth’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.15 an hour.
To the 1.2 million Pennsylvanians working low-wage jobs, the proposed pay raise may seem as a necessary boost to help meet ends meet. The potential wage increase would also appear to be an immediate boon to the many high school students who currently work part-time at low-paying jobs to earn extra spending money, or to accumulate savings to help cover future university tuition.
However, other groups have raised some concerns about the possible mandatory rate hike, such as the possibility that any wage increase would be offset by a rise in the costs of goods and services. Small business owner and Prep senior Paul Hoffman of H&M Landscape and Construction concurred. Hoffman explained that while his employees’ average hourly pay is 20-30 percent higher than the current minimum wage, if the floor were to be increased to $10.15, his company’s additional labor expenses “would cause an increase in price for our services to our customers.”
Despite the proposal, the measure is highly unlikely to pass in Pennsylvania’s House and Senate. Governor Wolf, a Democrat, is currently at odds with the Republican-dominated State Legislature. At this time, the Commonwealth has gone over seven months without a budget and now the Governor finds himself in the peculiar position of proposing the 2016-17 fiscal year budget despite having no 2015-16 budget in place. The stalemate between the two sides is a result of conflicting viewpoints on how to handle government spending, tax rates, and the overhaul of Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor distribution system. The ongoing budget conflict is likely to only get more complicated with the minimum wage debate now added to the mix.
Currently, Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is on par with the federally mandated minimum wage, at $7.25/hr. Neighboring states New York and Ohio currently employ $9.00/hr and $8.10/hr minimum wages, respectively. California and Massachusetts currently have the highest state minimum wages in the country at $10/hr, though several cities around the country require higher rates of pay, in addition.