Skeptical GOP, economists review Wolf plan to raise minimum wage

Pennsylvania's House Labor and Industry Committee held a hearing Wednesday at the Harrisburg Capitol on Gov. Tom Wolf's plan for gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15. (ShutterStock)

Pennsylvania's House Labor and Industry Committee held a hearing Wednesday at the Harrisburg Capitol on Gov. Tom Wolf's plan for gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15. (ShutterStock)

The day after Gov. Tom Wolf pitched lawmakers on raising the minimum wage as part of the state budget, the Pennsylvania’s House started hearings on the issue.

Republicans say they’re keeping an open mind — but their initial reactions indicate the hike may be a pipe dream.

The hearing Wednesday in the GOP-led House Labor and Industry Committee featured economists from Susquehanna and Duquesne universities who both ended the session saying they oppose any minimum wage at all.

Rep. Jim Cox, the Berks County Republican who chairs the committee, said he’d like to get some other perspectives in future hearings.

“It would be a misstep to say I’ll never consider this issue or that issue,” he said. “Part of the discussion we have here with our colleagues is, is there a place we can meet? Is there something we can do?”

But Cox noted, the concept isn’t a popular one in the Republican-controlled legislature. He doesn’t support it himself and thinks it shouldn’t be part of budget talks.

“I think it’s a real challenge to find the basis within our caucus to move something that is going to have an effect on the free market,” he said.

Wolf proposed upping the wage to $12 an hour, and then gradually increasing it to $15. It’s an idea he has pitched many times without success.

Rep. Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, who serves as minority chair of the panel, said he thinks there is room for some compromise on a less-ambitious proposal.

“If we work with both sides of the aisle, we can find something in the middle, maybe, that works for everybody,” he said.

Twenty-nine other states have minimum wages above the $7.25 federal minimum — including those that border Pennsylvania.New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy this week signed into law a measure calling for a minimum wage of $10 in July, then gradual increases until  it reaches $15 in 2024.

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