Thursday, March 31, 2005

Raise the minimum wage

The federal government has not raised the minimum wage from $5.15 since 1997. And, given the current climate, that is why states around the country have taken a common sense, humane approach, and raised it themselves. Included in the 13 states that have done this are our neighbors: New Jersey, New York and Delaware. So, frankly, it is long passed due for PA to act. Do you think they will? I don't, but at least 2 State Senators are trying.

From the Inquirer:
Saying the federal government has failed to act, two Pennsylvania Senate Democrats are heading an effort to raise the state's minimum wage over the next two years to $7 an hour.

Sen. Vincent Hughes joined Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione yesterday in urging their Senate and House colleagues in Harrisburg and Gov. Rendell to increase the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to match New Jersey, New York and Delaware.


Hughes and Tartaglione said they were leading a coalition of community, religious and trade union groups to put pressure on state officials and the governor to take action and support the legislation.

But Tartaglione's proposal faces an uphill fight in the Republican-controlled legislature in Harrisburg. Leaders in both houses have held firm in their belief that raising the minimum wage is a federal issue.

"That's been the position of the State Senate historically, and I don't see that changing this year," said Erik Arneson, chief of staff and spokesman for Senate Majority Leader David J. Brightbill (R., Lebanon). "Our job is to try to find a balance, which we feel is a level playing field across the country, and that the federal government should take up this issue."

Rendell spokeswoman Kate Philips said the governor shared that view.

"The governor certainly supports raising the minimum wage at the federal level," she said. "He thinks that's the most appropriate level to raise the minimum wage so it's uniform across the nation.

"But he's willing to consider legislation at the state level, as well," she said.

Hughes said the coalition would focus on Rendell.
Frankly, although Senator Brightbill and Rep. Smith's answers are bad, if not predictable, I really blame the Governor here. He has long said that although he is for an increase in the minimum wage, he does not want to do it because it will hurt PA competitively. Well, now that our biggest local competitors have already raised it, why isn't he acting?

$5.15, times 2000 working hours, equals a yearly salary of $10,300 dollars. Not exactly a ton of money. And forget the idea that the people making minimum wage are just teenagers getting some "training": 72 percent of minimum wage recipients are 20 or older.

This is really pretty basic. And Sen. Hughes is right, he needs to go after Rendell's support, because raising the minimum wage is a basic issue, and I do not think a ton of State Reps want to run against it next year. Unfortunately, I do not get the sense that this is something that Rendell, who I very much like, really feels very strongly about. Its a shame though, because if he wanted to push it hard, I think he could get a bill through the Capitol.


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