New Jersey just went to a $15/hr minimum wage. Here’s why Pa. could be next | Tuesday Morning Coffee

February 19, 2019 7:26 am

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Workers in the Garden State may have just given Pennsylvania lawmakers a glimpse of what they can expect as the debate over Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed minimum wage increase revs up as we get deeper into the spring and early summer.

As Vox reports, New Jersey has now become the fourth state in the country to boost its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

And it looks like Illinois will soon become the fifth state with a $15/hr minimum after the Legislature approved a wage-hike bill last week. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, who campaigned on a $15 minimum wage pledge, says he plans to sign the bill.  When that happens, Illinois’ minimum will rise from the current $8.25 to $15 by 2024.

Nearly 2 million workers in those states are in line for a raise, according to published reports. All told, the minimum wage rose in 20 states at the turn of the New Year,according to an Associated Press analysis.

Pennsylvania’s minimum, meanwhile, has remained mired at $7.25 an hour (the same as the federal minimum) for a decade. And Republicans in the General Assembly, buttressed by allies in the business community, have steadfastly refused a hike, arguing it would be a job-killer (as the Vox piece makes clear,t the research is actually split).

During his budget address earlier this month, Wolf proposed raising the minimum to $12 by July. It would then rise by 50 cents an hour annually until it hits $15 in 2025. There’s reason to think that Pennsylvania might finally join the club.


For starters, years of protests and rallies by the ‘Fight for $15’ movement finally moved the needle nationwide. With that kind of template, it’s entirely reasonable to expect that activists will be out in force in Pennsylvania as the June 30 deadline to pass a new state budget draws ever nearer.

Experienced Harrisburg hands will tell you, however, that packed Capitol rallies alone aren’t enough to move a famously recalcitrant Legislature to action.

Public opinion, however just might.

Polling data suggests majorities of Americans support a higher minimum wage — even if it means they might have to pay more for their meals, for instance. And if they are adroit at nothing else, legislators, even those of the Pennsylvania variety, are adroit at reading the public’s mood.

And, finally, there’s political self-preservation. Senate Republicans will head into the spring defending a key seat in the Pittsburgh suburbs that Democrats wish dearly to flip – and they just might. Being on the wrong side of the wage debate could end up becoming a key pressure point.  And we won’t even get into the 2020 dangers of alienating a mobilized and increasingly progressive electorate in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Finally, Republicans might be willing to trade a lower corporate tax rate and regulatory reform for the shale industry, for the minimum wage, or a severance tax on drillers, or both. There are quite a few of what Donald Rumsfeld would refer to as “known unknowns'” in the debate that will become clearer as the weather gets warmer.

What does seem clear, though, is that it’s not longer a matter of whether the wage will rise – but when that will happen, and by how much.

Our Stuff.
Fifteen states, led by California, are suing President Donald Trump over his power-grab for border wall money. Pennsylvania isn’t among them. Attorney General Josh Shapiro says he’s keeping his powder dry – for now.

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes brings you up to date on the ACLU lawsuit getting underway in federal court in Harrisburg today that’s seeking to overturn the state Corrections Department’s inmate mail policy.

Staff Reporter Elizabeth Hardison finds city officials in Harrisburg paying for some high-priced lobbying in the hope of gaining safer streets.

Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso runs down a suburban Philly lawmaker’s proposal for paid family leave for every Pennsylvanian.

In this week’s installment of The Numbers Racket, we take a look at President Trump’s claim of a criss at the southern border. The data suggests something else entirely.

On the Opinion side of the house, veteran Philly columnist Tom Ferrick takes a look at the ‘makers and takers,’ by county, when it comes to your tax dollars.

Citing prosecutorial misconduct, a Philly judge has vacated a convicted murderer’s death sentence, exonerating him after 28 years on death rowThe Inquirer reports.

The Inquirer also has a Q&A on Philly’s new voting machines.

The Post-Gazette has a new executive editor – it’s controversial opinion guy Keith Burris.  Burris will continue to run the editorial pages for The PG and Toledo Blade.

The Incline has more on the controversial hire.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

BillyPenn has more on a strange letter making the rounds of Philly’s Fairmount neighborhood over the weekend.

The Morning Call has its own take on that lawsuit against the Corrections Department over inmate mail. looks at a move in some states toward ‘surge pricing’ for electricity use.

Politico has the details on Democratic presidential candidate (and U.S. Sen.) Amy Klobuchar’s town hall on CNN on Monday night.

Roll Call profiles some losing 2018 U.S. House candidates who are now eyeing 2020 Senate bids.

What Goes On.
The state House gavels in at 1 p.m.
10 a.m., Media Center: Rep. Peter Schweyer and others on ‘community solar’ legislation.
11:30 a.m., Media Center: Bipartisan lawmakers on career and technical education support bills.
12 p.m., Main Rotunda: 175th Anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s independence
Meanwhile, budget hearings get rolling in the Senate Appropriations Committee. All meetings are in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building. This is today’s schedule:
10 a.m.: Dept. of Revenue/Pa. Lottery
1 p.m.: Independent Fiscal Office
3 p.m.: Public Utility Commission

Gov. Tom Wolf 
holds a 10:30 a.m. news conference in the Capitol rotunda to roll out the creation of a “Workforce Command Center,” for job stuff.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Jared Solomon
8:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Jordan Harris
11 a.m.: Luncheon for Rep. Tim O’Neal
5:30 p.m.: Reception for the House Democratic Campaign Committee
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’ll be out a truly awful $20,250 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Bran Van 3000 that some of you may have heard of before. It’s called ‘Drinking in L.A.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The Blackhawks beat Ottawa 8-7 on Monday. Chicago’s Patrick Kane extended his point streak to 18 games on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.