There are currently five bills in the Pennsylvania state Legislature that propose raising the minimum wage, and the most recently introduced is also the most ambitious, calling for the current minimum wage of $7.25/hour to more than double, to $15/hour.
Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware, Montgomery) last week introduced the “One Fair Wage” bill, for which he is currently seeking co-sponsors. Leach said the bill would do three things.
“It would raise the minimum wage, which has only been raised once in the last 15 years, to a livable wage,” Leach said. “Number two, it would eliminate the tip minimum wage, which has not gone up in 21 years and is $2.83/hour in Pennsylvania. Three, it would tie minimum wage to inflation.”
Also last week, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) and U.S. Rep. Robert Scott (D-Virginia) introduced the Raise the Wage Act, which seeks a $12.00/hour federal minimum wage by 2020.
According to the left-leaning Keystone Research Center, a Harrisburg think tank, 1.4 million Pennsylvania workers would see their wages rise under the federal proposal and 2 million would see wage increases under Sen. Leach’s proposal.
Critics of raising the minimum wage say that it would cost jobs. According to the conservative Employment Policies Institute, “raising the minimum wage hurts the least-skilled and least-experienced jobseekers the most.” They estimate that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10/hour, for which both President Obama and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf have advocated, would result in about 30,000 lost jobs nationwide.
But Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center, said the opposite could happen.
“Because you’re also raising wages, that’s likely to stimulate higher spending, because this is a group of workers who spend every dime,” Price said. “You actually might see a positive boost in employment in the economy. Our estimate is roughly 6,000 new jobs would be created if you boosted the wages of 1.2 million workers.”
Price concedes that Leach’s $15/hour proposal is unlikely to gain much support in the Republican-controlled state Legislature, and that the $12/hour federal proposal is also likely to face stiff opposition.
“If something happens in Congress to move a bill to the floor, I would expect there would a give and take and that level might very likely come down,” Price said.
But Sen. Leach said he’s still committed to fighting for a $15/hour minimum wage, for the time being.
“I always thought that you should introduce legislation that reflects what you would like to see happen,” Leach said. “You may have to compromise down the road, but what I would like to see happen is $15/hour, so that’s what I introduced.”
The state Senate Committee on Labor and Industry is slated to hold a public hearing on Leach’s bill Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. It can be livestreamed at www.pasenate.com.