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Minimum Wage Issues Takes Center Stage at Events, Hearings

Making headlines statewide last week were comments regarding the minimum wage by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, at the Pennsylvania Press Club.  Corman admitted that discussions over an immediate increase to $12 an hour with an eventual increase to $15 would be a non-starter in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.  However, he did acknowledge that the issue is heating up and that a conversation “needs to happen” in the coming months.  While he offered no specifics, he called on those who favor an increase to propose “a reasonable plan so we can move this forward.”  Following Corman’s remarks, House Republican spokesman Mike Straub said that House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, is open to discussing the issue but believes “the focus should be on other policy changes, including workforce development changes, that can help lift residents into better-paying jobs.”   And while Gov. Wolf’s spokesman J.J. Abbott said the governor still believes that his minimum wage proposal is fair for workers, he added that “every part of the budget is subject to negotiations with the legislature, and we would certainly welcome a discussion about the minimum wage.”

The minimum wage issue was also highlighted at several House and Senate budget hearings last week, including at hearings for the Departments of Human Services and Health.  DOH Secretary Rachel Levine voiced support for a minimum wage increase in her testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee.  According to a story by Capitolwire, Levine told members that a wage increase would help improve health care outcomes, claiming at one point “poverty adversely affects health … and that’s why it’s so important for the legislature to work with the governor, in terms of minimum wage, to help bring people out of poverty.”

The PA Chamber is spreading awareness about the real impact of minimum wage increases on the economy and workers.  Multiple real-world stories from our broad-based membership and a number of independent studies have demonstrated how mandated wage hikes lead to reduced hours and can lead to outright job loss, thereby hurting the very people they’re intended to help. Lawmakers should focus on policies that target support to families in poverty and improve job training programs that will allow individuals to obtain skills needed for career-oriented jobs.

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