Hearings on Gov. Tom Wolf’s $34.1 billion budget plan kicked off Monday with a volley of Republican attacks on the prospect of raising the minimum wage, signaling a tough road ahead for a new proposal the Democrat is backing.
The first House Appropriations Committee budget hearing featured members of the Republican majority repeatedly criticizing the broader impact of a minimum wage increase, including whether it would choke off the supply of entry-level jobs, squeeze small businesses or drive up inflation.
Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, questioned whether higher minimum wage earners would still earn too little to live without public benefits, but then find themselves no longer eligible for the help.
The first testifier, Matthew Knittel, director of the Legislature’s Independent Fiscal Office, said his agency is working on an analysis of the latest minimum wage proposal that Wolf supports.
Since 2009, Pennsylvania has remained at the $7.25 federal minimum wage level, one of 21 states to do so, and the Republican-controlled Legislature has batted away Wolf’s proposals to raise it since he took office in 2015.
The latest Wolf-backed proposal would take Pennsylvania’s hourly minimum to $12 this year, putting Pennsylvania in line with the highest state minimum wages. Annual 50-cent increases would bring it to $15 an hour in 2025, lifting Pennsylvania into a group of 17 other states that have scheduled annual adjustments written into law.