A constitutional amendment raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 has been introduced in the Senate after years of attempts by Democrats to do just that have been blocked by Republicans.
Pennsylvania’s paltry $7.25 an hour minimum wage will celebrate its 14th anniversary this year. Democratic state lawmakers have had every attempt to raise it blocked by Republicans, so now one state Senator is proposing to let the voters decide.
Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) introduced Senate Bill 539, which proposes amending the state constitution to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour starting in 2025, with adjustments based on inflation every year after.
Since 1996, 27 constitutional amendments have been approved by voters in other states to raise their state’s minimum wage, Fontana said in a memo to other senators.
In Pennsylvania, a constitutional amendment has to pass both chambers — House and Senate — in consecutive two-year legislative sessions, then be advertised to the public before the next fall election. The amendment would then go before voters for the final say.
Currently, 30 states and Washington, DC have minimum wages above the commonwealth. During 2022, the minimum wage rates that exceeded Pennsylvania’s ranged from $8.75 to $15.00.
All of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have increased their minimum wages. In 2022, they ranged from $8.75 to $14.20 and, for 2023, they are projected to range from $8.75 to $14.13 plus a still-to-be-determined inflation adjustment by New York, which is already at $14.20.
“Whether you are a worker, employer, or consumer, minimum wage impacts our entire state and the health of the economy,” Fontana said.
In 2022, there were an estimated 63,600 Pennsylvania workers earning minimum wage or less, representing 2% of all hourly workers and 1% of all workers, according to the Minimum Wage Advisory Board.
The buying power of the minimum wage has plummeted since it was last increased by the state legislature and is now worth less in real terms than at any point since 1956.