HARRISBURG — Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman on Monday signaled that Republicans who control the chamber are willing to discuss a bump in Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, which has remained stagnant at $7.25 per hour for the last decade.
“The minimum-wage discussion needs to happen,” Corman, a Republican from Centre County, said during the monthly press club luncheon in Harrisburg, later adding: “We are open to having a discussion. It’s an important discussion to have … if we can get to a number that is reasonable.”
Corman’s comments signaled a shift in what had been his caucus’ hands-off stance on hiking the minimum wage, an issue largely championed by Democrats. For years, GOP leaders have balked at an increase, with many saying they would prefer that the federal government deal with the wage issue.
Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a bump every year since the Democrat was elected governor in 2014 — and this year was no exception. Last month, the governor reiterated his plan to increase it to $15 per hour by 2025.
Meanwhile, surrounding states have been upping theirs. According to the U.S, Department of Labor, Maryland set its minimum at $10.10 per hour; West Virginia is at $8.75; New York, $11.10; and Ohio, $8.55.
And in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic leaders of the state Legislature last month reached an agreement to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024.
In his remarks Monday, Corman said he believed Wolf’s $15-per-hour proposal for Pennsylvania workers would send a “shock” through the state’s economy “at a time we are looking to create jobs and have more employers here.” But he suggested "a more modest” bump could gain traction.
He would not say what amount would be acceptable to his caucus.
Even if senators reach a consensus quickly, they would still need Republicans who control the House of Representatives to sign off on a bump — and that is far from guaranteed.
Mike Straub, spokesman for House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster), said Monday that Cutler is open to discussing the issue, but also believes the focus should be on other policy changes, including workforce development changes, that can help lift residents into better-paying jobs.
In his budget plan for the next fiscal year, Wolf has proposed raising the state’s current minimum wage — the same as the federal minimum — on a sliding scale. It would start with a hike to $12 this July, then rise by 50 cents every year until 2025, when it would be $15. The wage would increase with the cost of living every year after that.
In an interview Monday, Wolf spokesperson J.J. Abbott would not say whether the governor would be willing to lower the proposed hike in his plan.
“The governor’s proposal is what he believes is fair for workers,” said Abbott. “But every part of the budget is subject to negotiations with the legislature, and we would certainly welcome a discussion about raising the minimum wage.”
Lawmakers last approved a boost in the state minimum wage in 2006, with the rate eventually moving to $7.15 an hour. It reached $7.25 an hour in 2009 to match the federal minimum wage.