Democratic Policy Committee Chairperson Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie; Rep. Patty Kim, D-Allegheny; and House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia; celebrate the passage of a bill to increase the minimum wage on Tuesday, June 20, 2023 at the Pennsylvania Capitol. Kim has been a longtime sponsor of legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. (Capital-Star photo by Peter Hall)
Pennsylvania House lawmakers voted Tuesday to raise the state’s minimum wage after 14 years at $7.25 an hour, the lowest rate allowed under federal law.
The measure, which is part of Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal, is likely to become a bargaining chip as House Democrats and Senate Republicans work over the next 10 days to hammer out a state budget that will pass in both chambers.
The minimum wage bill would initially raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour next year, $13 an hour in 2025 and $15 an hour in 2026. Increases each year thereafter would be tied to the consumer price index.
House Bill 1500, sponsored by Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia, passed in a 103-100 vote with Republican Reps. Joe Hogan and Kathleen Tomlinson, both of Bucks County breaking ranks with their caucus.
Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, has said that $15 an hour is “not a practical number.”
House Majority Leader Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, said after the vote that he’s hopeful that enough Senate Republicans will support the hike for it to pass. Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, introduced an identical bill in the Senate, which has yet to see a vote.
“We need to be pragmatic. We recognize we have 102 [votes]. But we also recognize that this bill is largely a companion bill from a Republican senator. If they won’t pass their own minimum wage bill, you wonder what the wage bill they will pass,” Bradford said.
House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, told reporters after the vote Tuesday evening that the minimum wage hike is just one of a number of bipartisan bills to improve life for Pennsylvania workers that have passed in the House.
They include tax credits for childcare expenses, for low-to-moderate income families, and for new teachers, nurses and police officers.
“After a long, hard battle, the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus is raising the minimum wage,” McClinton said.
In debate on the House floor, Republican lawmakers warned that the raise would result in tens of thousands of lost jobs, $150 million in lost wages and more than a billion dollars in lost profits for family-owned businesses.
GOP lawmakers also argued that a government-mandated minimum wage hike is unnecessary because a tight labor market has driven wages for even low-skilled workers above the level proposed in the legislation.
“As it stands today, nearly 98% of Pennsylvanians earn a wage higher than minimum wage,” Rep. Torren Ecker, R-Adams, said.
Ecker also challenged the notion that a minimum wage hike is necessary for people to survive.
“It’s a misconception that they’re single parents raising children or individuals coming from low socio-economic households. In reality, 93% of these employees have zero children, and a considerable amount of minimum wage earners are from middle and upper class families,” Ecker said.
Dawkins argued Republicans, who predominantly represent the state’s rural areas, should support the bill. The state’s poorest counties are rural, he said.
“Poverty is poverty regardless of where you live. And it is far time for us to address some of these challenges we have as it relates to it,” Dawkins said.
With the constitutional June 30 deadline for the state budget fast approaching, Bradford said talks are ongoing, but he said it’s past time for the Senate to put forth a budget bill.
The House passed a budget bill on June 5, that included nearly $1 billion more in spending than the $44.4 billion spending plan that Shapiro introduced in March. Shapiro commended House Democrats for moving the budget forward and adding to the priorities he shares with lawmakers.
Pittman called Shapiro’s overall budget ask, “an impossible number.”
Bradford said House Democrats recognized that Senate GOP leaders will have their own number and added he’s hopeful they will embrace at least some of the pro-worker measures Shapiro envisioned and the House has passed.
“There are great programs that … obviously got huge bipartisan support in the House. I think there’s no reason in the world if they got a vote in the Senate, that they wouldn’t get equally strong bipartisan support,” Bradford said.
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