Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is calling on Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature to raise the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.25.
“As the state’s fiscal watchdog, I think this would be good for the state budget," DePasquale said. "I believe it would help stimulate the economy and most importantly, it’s just the right thing to do to put money in the pockets of working families who have gone without a raise for far too long."
In states that have held votes on raising the minimum wage, the measures have passed, but putting it on the ballot isn’t an option in Pennsylvania. Opponents say increasing the minimum wage would hurt those currently making more money.
DePasquale said that is not the case.
“The reality is that if we raise the minimum wage it doesn’t just impact the people that make the minimum wage, it also impacts people that have wages closed to the minimum wage,” he said. “It ends up lifting the tide of all people that are in the working family category.”
Another concern opponents cite is the impact on small businesses. Some say an increase would cause a spike in unemployment.
“The history of raising the minimum wage shows that that is not accurate,” argued DePasquale, “but I want to confront this issue because it’s a fair question. None of these things are ever automatic 100 percent successful or 100 percent failures. There’s always, admittedly, some winners and losers. I believe, and the evidence shows, that the vast majority of people who would benefit from this outweighs the potential negative consequences.”
President Obama supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, but DePasquale said he’s not advocating for a specific amount.
“I think the president’s got a good proposal, but if we can only get it passed at $9.75 an hour, then let’s do that,” he said. “Let’s not make perfect be the enemy of the good. I also do think going forward this should be indexed to inflation. I think that’s the way to move this out of politics going forward.”
Legislation has been introduced in Harrisburg to raise the minimum wage, DePasquale said lawmakers should make it a higher priority and place it on the legislative calendar. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently have raised the minimum wage above the federal level.