A New Year's Resolution That Lawmakers Should Find Easy to Keep: Increase the PA Minimum Wage in 2015

As we close in on the end of 2014, here's our suggestion for a New Year's Resolution PA lawmakers should make along with losing weight and spending more time with the family: increasing the Pennsylvania minimum wage.

As detailed in our end-of year press release, 20 states and the District of Columbia will raise their minimum wages tomorrow but Pennsylvania will not.

We documented in the 2014 State of Working Pennsylvania (SWPA), there is a desperate need for a minimum-wage increase. As of 2013, nearly one in five Pennsylvania workers earned less than the $10.10 per hour level to which Senator Tina Tartaglione and Gov.-elect Tom Wolf have proposed increasing Pennsylvania's minimum wage (an increase of $2.85 above the current $7.25 Pennsylvania and federal minimum wage).

Our annual SWPA report also showed that the bottom two tenths of PA wage earners now have an inflation-adjusted wage about 6% below the level of 2001 -- that's a decrease of roughly 60 cents per hour or about $1,250 per year if someone works full-time, year-round. That's real money for families struggling to pay the monthly bills.

An increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour wouild lift wages for about a million Pennsylvania workers, the vast majority of them adults 20 and over, two-thirds of them women, and with much of the benefits going to low-income families. (For details, see our Minimum Wage Fact Sheet.)

This added pay would represent a modest, but significant, boost to the spending power of lower-wage workers, growing the local Pennsylvania businesses where these workers shop. The benefits to business explain why more than 1,000 small business owners nationally, and the CEOs of large brands such as Costco, Eileen Fisher, Stonyfield and Dansko, have signed the Business for a Fair Minimum Wage Statement to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10. These business leaders agree that raising the minimum wage will boost consumer spending, decrease employee turnover, increase productivity and customer satisfaction, and strengthen the economy. Increasing the minimum wage will also reduce taxpayer costs because inadequate wages increase dependence on the social safety net.

The most recent poll of small business owners with employees shows that 61% support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and adjusting it annually to keep pace with the cost of living

Two thirds of Pennsylvanians also support a minimum wage increase, including moderates and Republicans.

In fact, even 62% of millionaires support a minimum-wage increase according to a new CNBC poll.

Bottom line, increasing the minimum wage should be a New Year's resolution that PA lawmakers not only find easy to make -- but easy to keep.

OK, now it's off to the gym with Sara to get a head start on those first two resolutions.

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