Report: Majorities of Pa. voters support minimum wage hike | Wednesday Morning Coffee

January 29, 2020 7:14 am

A coalition of progressive advocacy groups rallies on the Pa. Capitol steps to call for better funding for public schools, a higher minimum wage, and other items in the 2019 state budget (Capital-Star photo).

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

You’ve probably heard by now that Democrats and Republicans are going to be fighting hard this campaign season for the votes of working-class Americans.

In general, that’s code for one thing: Someone old and white who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 — and all the isolationist and protectionist tropes that come with it.

But as a new report by the progressive Center for American Progress’ Action Fund makes clear, working class voters, defined as those without a four-year college degree, are hardly monolithic in their views or their demographics.

In fact, overwhelming majorities of 60,000 adults nationwide whose opinions were sampled for the report support such progressive policies as a higher minimum wage, increased healthcare, education and infrastructure spending, and higher taxes on the wealthy.

“To be sure, there are certain policy questions on which attitudes of the working class diverge from those of workers with additional education and which workers’ attitudes are divided along racial lines,” the report’s authors write, throwing in the obligatory caveat. “Still …  on most economic questions, members of the working class overwhelmingly support progressive policies, which suggests that policymakers could successfully implement these types of policies.”

Below, you’ll find the breakdown on where Pennsylvania falls on these policy questions. And why there may be some welcome news for the Wolf administration as it gears up for another budget address to the majority-GOP House and Senate.

An SEIU activist rallies for a $15/hr. minimum wage, which was one of the policies that F&M researchers polled in their most recent public opinion survey. (Stephen Melkisethian/Flickr Commons)

On Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf renewed his call for hiking Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, now $7.25 an hour, to $12 an hour, and eventually $15 an hour, with future raises tied to inflation.

The report by CAP’s Action Fund finds 68 percent of Pennsylvania working-class voters supportive of such a proposal, and an effectively equal number of college-educated voters, 67.9 percent, supportive of a wage hike.

Also on Tuesday, Wolf jump-started his stalled, $4.5 billion Restore PA plan, which would use a severance tax on natural gas drillers to help pay for a range of infrastructure improvements, such as road and bridge repairs, flood control, and even rural broadband.

Nearly six in 10 working class voters in the report said they supported greatly, or slightly, increasing infrastructure spending, compared to more than 72 percent of college-educated voters.

Some other bottom-line findings among Pennsylvania voters:

  • Nearly 72 percent of working-class voters and 74.7 percent of college-educated voters supported increased taxes on the wealthy.
  • Nearly two-thirds of working-class voters and college educated voters supported increased healthcare spending.
  • Nearly two-thirds of working-class voters supported increased education spending, while nearly 73 percent of college educated voters expressed the same sentiment.

“In an era of wage stagnation, uneven access to health care, and historic levels of inequality, many working-class families find themselves in a precarious economic situation,” the report’s authors conclude. “As a result, the working class is pushing for policies that will increase economic well-being and stability.”

Please join us, this Thursday night, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at our offices here on 1007 N. Front Street  in Harrisburg, for a vital and necessary discussion around the issue of gun-violence reduction.

Confirmed speakers include Penn State-Harrisburg criminal justice professor Eileen Ahlin; state Rep. Brian Kirkland, D-Delaware; Erin Buchner of the Pa. chapter of Moms Demand, and Joshua Vaughn, reporter for the criminal justice news site, The Appeal.

Admission to the forum, part of our ongoing #PennForward project, is free. You can RSVP at the EventBrite link here.

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison
 leads our coverage this morning with a look at a bipartisan push to provide paid family leave, and the opposition it’s facing in some quarters in the Capitol.

She also has this look at a bill boosting prison sentences for repeat DUI offenders. And she catalogs tweets by Attorney General Josh Shapiro signaling his support for a change in voting practices on the state Board of Pardons.

Stephen Caruso has what you need to know about a plan to reduce carbon emissions from the cars and trucks on Pennsylvania highways. He also has this look at efforts by a West Coast-based conservative group to encourage public employees to quit their unions.

With his budget address now less than a week away, Gov. Tom Wolf kept busy Tuesday previewing parts of the address he’ll give to a joint session of the state House and Senate. On Tuesday morning, he renewed his call for a higher minimum wage. In the afternoon, he argued the case for infrastructure funding, as Associate Editor Cassie Miller reports.

Washington Reporter Allison Stevens catches you up on a similar paid family leave debate on Capitol Hill.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, a meeting between the Mummers and City Council over the performers’ use of blackface resulted in an agreement on a ban.

On our Commentary Page, a healthcare advocate in Pittsburgh says Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers need to prioritize Medical Assistance for vulnerable seniors this budget season. And opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz has some thoughts on MLK’s ‘neglected’ politics.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., speaks during an event at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday, 10/9/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s, R-Pa.,
 proposed impeachment witness trade is a ‘crazy quid pro quo,’ according to Democrats. The Inquirer has the story.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a lawsuit, filed by truckers, challenging the Pa. Turnpike’s tolls, the Post-Gazette reports.
State Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, a survivor of sexual assault, is taking some heat for pointing out on Twitter that the late Kobe Bryant once faced a sexual assault charge, PennLive reports.
Amen — PETA is calling for Punxsutawney Phil’s retirement, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

Facing a likely federal indictment, Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson is maintaining his innocenceWHYY-FM reports.
Pennsylvania school leaders are calling for a moratorium on new charter schools until state law is changed, the PA Post reports.
Democratic 10th CD hopeful Eugene DePasquale got a leg up from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as it named him in the first round of its ‘Red to Blue,’ programPoliticsPA reports.
Some scientists are cautioning that vaping bans do more harm than good, reports.
Roll Call has your one-stop impeachment news round-up. 

What Goes On.
The Senate comes in at 11 a.m.
11 a.m., Main Rotunda: ‘The Red Sand’ project against human trafficking.

At 1:30 p.m. in the reception room, Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers talk about lead and asbestos remediation in Pennsylvania schools.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition). 
State Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, holds an 8:30 a.m. breakfast reception at Home 231 on North Street in Harrisburg. Admission runs $500 to $2,500.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Big congrats go out this morning to Christina Kristofic, city editor at our publishing partner, The Philadelphia Tribune, who celebrates today. Enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a new one from The Courteneers. It’s ‘Better Man.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
St. Louis 
picked up its first win in four games on Tuesday, beating Calgary 5-4 in a shootout.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

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