Minimum wage referendum proposed

Rep. Anthony DeLuca thinks it’s time for the people to decide if Pennsylvania will increase its minimum wage.

DeLuca introduced legislation this week in the state House of Representatives (House Bill 1646) that would put the matter on the next general election ballot for public approval in a non-binding referendum.

“Every state surrounding Pennsylvania has raised their minimum wage,” DeLuca said. “Even Florida recently raised their minimum wage when they put the question before their voters. If we want to continue attracting people to Pennsylvania, we need to make sure we are competitive with other states – and that includes making sure that our minimum wage is competitive. Accordingly, I will be introducing legislation that will ask the voters in the next general election if they want to see the minimum wage increased. To address concerns over constitutionality, the results of this referendum will be nonbinding. Nonetheless, the results of this referendum will be invaluable to policymakers.”

Gov. Tom Wolf has made increasing the state’s minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour, one of his top priorities for the past few years. He and appointed state officials have continued advocating for an increased minimum wage this year, proposing to increase the minimum wage to $12 on July 1. The rate would increase an additional 50 cents each year until reaching $15.

In March, state Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, introduced legislation that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour — less than what Wolf and other Democrats are asking.

“I have heard from my constituents and have listened to both sides of the political aisle. It is definitely time that we address the issue and I believe my bill is the most responsible way to approach it,”Laughlin said. “My legislation increases Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10 and – based on inflation – would provide for regular increases as appropriate.”

Increasing the minimum wage has been a non-starter with legislative Republicans. Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-Northumberland/Snyder, said in February that a $12 minimum wage would cost the state 27,000 jobs. Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte and House majority leader, told the Centre Square news outlet recently that the current labor market shows a minimum wage increase isn’t needed.

“The private proprietors are almost doubling current wages on the signs that I see out there competing for manpower,” Benninghoff said. “When you have a shortage of workers, capitalism works best because people are willing to pay the price to get them there.”


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