Gov. Wolf hopes to increase Pa. minimum wage to $12 by 2021, and $15 by 2027 | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Gov. Wolf hopes to increase Pa. minimum wage to $12 by 2021, and $15 by 2027

Photo: Commonwealth Media Services
On Feb. 8, Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) held a press conference to reaffirm his belief in increasing the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, and outlined a plan that would incrementally raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, from its current rate of $7.25 an hour.

At his press conference, Wolf emphasized that $7.25, which a press release called "embarrassingly low," can no longer be considered a livable wage, as the cost of food, gas, housing, and other essential services have gone up. Pennsylvania's minimum wage was last increased in 2009, when the federal minimum wage requirement increased.

“Too many essential workers are earning poverty wages while putting themselves at risk to keep our society running," said Wolf in a press release. "They keep food on shelves, move crucial supplies, take care of our children, and support people with disabilities. And thousands of them earn poverty wages. These hardworking people deserve better. They deserve a living wage.”

Wolf presented the planned minimum wage increase as working in tandem with the tax cuts he proposed earlier this month to provide relief to working class families. Wolf's wage increase plan proposes raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour by July 2021, then with an increase of 50 cents every year until the wage hit $15 in 2027. As many minimum wage critics have pointed out, the fight for a $15 minimum wage has been going on for so many years, that the wage is no longer in line with current needs, and many feel the goal should be higher, especially if the $15 amount would not be reached for another six years.

Republicans, who control both chambers of the Pennsylvania legislature, have signaled oppositions to Wolf's minimum wage proposal.

U.S. Congress is also in the midst of a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage. The Democrats' proposal, which recently was included as part of the current COVID-19 relief package, would raise the nation's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, but wouldn't reach the $12 an hour threshold until 2023, if it were passed this year. President Joe Biden is supportive of an increase to a $15 minimum wage, but is not certain the proposal will make it to his desk as part of the COVID-19 relief package. 

According to a recent study from The Harris Poll, 83% of Americans agree that the current minimum wage of $7.25 is not enough to live on, while a 2019 Pew Research study found that 67% of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A 2019 study from the University of Pittsburgh, which looked at wages among hospital workers in Pittsburgh, showed that workers making $15 an hour would still face financial hardships.

Wolf's press release also noted that Pennsylvania is behind Republican-controlled Florida, where voters passed a constitutional amendment during the November 2020 election to raise the minimum wage to $15.

“No one who works hard should be living in poverty,” said Wolf. “I am pleased that the Biden Administration also sees the importance of ensuring that workers earn a living wage, but we cannot wait for the federal government to act."

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