Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a plan Tuesday to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 … by July!
While some here celebrate the governor’s plan, you’ll be hard-pressed to find business owners popping corks today. Months after the bill passes, when people start losing their jobs and getting hours cut, belly-aching over the new minimum wage will expand.
And at home, the proposed minimum wage increase would virtually kill any attempts at revitalization several Schuylkill County communities are attempting.
Pennsylvania Minimum Wage to $12 by Summer?
Wolf’s minimum wage plan includes a huge spike in a very short period of time. The current Pennsylvania minimum wage is $7.25, same as the federal minimum wage. Under the new plan, the state’s minimum wage goes up to $12 per hour by July 1 of this year.
That equals a $4.75 per hour spike for any minimum wage employee.
The minimum wage won’t stop going up until 2026 under Wolf’s new plan. He calls for a 50 cent per hour raise every year until the minimum wage hits $15 per hour.
“There’s momentum to finally raise the wage, but momentum in the Capitol doesn’t put food on the table in workers’ homes,” Wolf says in a statement released Tuesday. “Too many workers are still struggling to get by because Pennsylvania hasn’t raised the minimum wage in more than a decade. The cost of living goes up and Pennsylvanians wait as 29 other states, including all of our neighbors, raised the minimum wage for their workers.”
Wolf is wrong, of course. Too many Pennsylvanians are struggling to get by because his administration stifles job growth. That forces adults with families at home to take jobs that normally pay at or just above minimum wage. Suddenly, people believe a job at a fast food restaurant is meant to sustain a family.
The governor says Pennsylvania should raise its minimum wage because neighboring states have done so already.
That comparison only makes sense if you like comparing Pennsylvania to other states in random statistics. Under his plan, Pennsylvania would suddenly pay more than any neighboring state.
Wolf says his plan aims to get people off public assistance but it’s likely it’ll put more people on it.
State employees have a $12.50 per hour minimum wage.
Schuylkill County Economic Impact
The economic impact of such a stark rise in Pennsylvania’s minimum wage would be felt in Schuylkill County right away.
Yes, a lot of workers will get an hourly raise. In fact, the average hourly worker in Schuylkill County would get an hourly wage raise.
The average yearly income in Schuylkill County is $23,249. That puts the average weekly pay at about $447 and the average hourly pay at $11.17.
But, employers aren’t going to be able to afford such a huge wage increase in a short period of time. Most business owners make cost projections for a year. That includes how much they’ll pay employees.
Factoring in just wages alone, the minimum wage worker in Schuylkill County could make about $5,000 more than they would have if the minimum wage goes up to $12 ($4.75 x 40 hrs x 26 wks).
If you own a business in Schuylkill County and rely on full-time minimum wage employees to get by, can you afford to pay each of those employees another $5,000 a year? Unlikely.
So, if you have one of these jobs or a job that pays somewhere in that $7.25-10 per hour range, do you feel confident that your job will be safe? Do you think you’ll see a cut in hours if your wages went up $2, $3, $4 or more per hour?
Schuylkill County Revitalization Efforts in Jeopardy
If employers can’t afford to pay employees, they can’t afford to expand their businesses. In fact, such a huge spike in wages could put many peoples’ future business plans on hold.
A business that needs a handful of employees making between $8-10 per hour is going to have a hard time finding the money to pay that same amount of people $12 or more per hour.
Those types of businesses are exactly the ones all the small communities attempting an economic revitalization are hoping to attract to occupy empty storefronts.
Entrepreneurs who have eyes on some historic Schuylkill County property to locate their new business already have a lot of odds stacked against them. They pay a lot of money just to bring properties up to code or to retro-fit their plans into an existing structure. That’s on top of the regular expenses associated with starting a business.
Jacking up the minimum wage is another expense — and not a small one — that’s likely to kill a lot of potential businesses from launching or expanding here.