Pennsylvania House Democrats Vote to Raise the Minimum Wage for the First Time Since 2007

FILE - A "Now Hiring" sign hangs in the windows of Ruby's Cleaners in Mount Lebanon, Pa., on Jan. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

By Sean Kitchen

June 21, 2023

House Democrats passed a bill raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage for the first time since 2007. House Bill 1500 raises the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour in three stages by Jan. 1, 2026 and then adjusts it to inflation beginning Jan. 1, 2027.

The commonwealth’s lowest-paid workers could soon get a big raise, as Pennsylvania House Democrats on Tuesday voted to pass the first increase in the minimum wage since 2007. 

House Bill 1500 will increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage in three stages from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2026. The minimum wage would increase from $7.25 per hour to $11 per hour on Jan. 1, 2024. It would then rise to $13 per hour by Jan. 1, 2025, and then $15 per  hour come 2026. 

Beginning in 2027, the minimum wage would then be tied to inflation and adjusted as necessary based on annual inflation rates. 

The bill also sets the tipped minimum wage for service workers to 60% of the minimum wage. 

HB 1500 passed the House by a 103-100 vote and advanced to the Senate. The minimum wage legislation is modeled after a bill introduced by Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie), who is the chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. 

Gov. Josh Shapiro stated during his budget address in March that he supports a $15 minimum wage, suggesting that the bill will become law if Senate Republicans get on board.

An estimated 63,600 Pennsylvania workers earned at or below the $7.25 minimum wage in 2022, according to a report from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Minimum Wage Advisory Board. While the number of minimum wage workers has declined in recent years, boosting the minimum wage would also help workers who currently earn more, as employer pay scales are adjusted upwards.

A higher minimum wage could also help keep more workers in Pennsylvania. 

A new study published by the Keystone Research Center, a progressive think tank based in Harrisburg, found that Pennsylvania workers living along bordering states with higher minimum wages commute to those states for better pay. 

“Pennsylvania workers are crossing the border to get a living-wage job; meanwhile, fewer New York workers are likely coming to Pennsylvania to take a poverty-wage job,” Steven Herzenberg, the executive director of the Keystone Research Center, said in a press release. “Pennsylvania low-wage employers, meanwhile, can’t find workers or fill vacancies because workers are crossing the border or staying home.”

Despite the urgency Democrats feel about raising the minimum wage, the bill’s prospects remain uncertain in the Senate. 

Senate Republicans haven’t taken up any meaningful legislation passed by House Democrats this year. A sampling of these bills currently in limbo includes the Fairness Act, which provides non-discrimination protections to members of the LGBTQ+ community; gun safety bills such as universal background checks and extreme risk protection order legislation; and bills addressing Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage.

J.J. Abbott, the executive director of Commonwealth Communications, a progressive communications firm in Pennsylvania, said in a statement that House Democrats “are raising the minimum wage after a decade of GOP obstruction, and [delivering] historic help for workers like the earned income and child care tax credits, expanded safety protections, and a right to organize. 

“In contrast, the Senate Republican majority is AWOL on any help for workers and their families. The contrast couldn’t be more profound,” Abbott added.

During debate on the House floor, State Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) spoke in opposition to raising the minimum wage. Grove claimed that he was only able to find one business in the commonwealth, a miniature golf course, that pays minimum wage and said “this bill is only going to result in the cost to play miniature golf to rise.”

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) fired back at York and other Republican opponents of the bill. 

“Marie Antoinette, if she was still alive, would have loved so much of this debate because a lot of it really sums up as just ‘let them eat cake,’” Kenyatta said. “Who cares about the struggling workers who are at home right now who are really only asking one question: ‘Why has it taken us this long?’”   

At a press conference following HB 1500’s passage, State Rep. Jason Dawkins (D-Philadelphia), Chair of the House Labor and Industry Committee, took the time to thank his colleagues such as State Reps. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin) and Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) who spent years championing bills to raise the minimum wage. 

“I was just a vehicle to get this thing done. There were plenty of folks before me who put the hard work in year after year after year,” Dawkins said. “I want to make sure we are honoring those who were fighting for a very long time such as my colleagues Rep. Kim, Senator Tartaglione, Chris Rabb and countless others before us who have been talking about raising this wage for far too long.”

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

CATEGORIES: Uncategorized

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This