York lawmakers split on Wolf minimum wage action

Greg Gross
  • Wages for state workers will increase to $10.15 an hour under Gov. Tom Wolf's executive order
  • About 450 state workers will be affected by pay hike

About 450 state government workers will get an automatic pay raise after Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order increasing their minimum wage.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The workers, many of whom are seasonal workers such as tax season clerks and temporary workers, will see their hourly pay increase from $7.25 to $10.15, according to the governor's office.

The Democrat signed the executive order establishing the new wage minimum Monday. About 79,000 people are employed by the state.

Cost: It also will affect a narrow set of state contracts — potentially 109 vendors that provide janitorial, landscaping, delivery and food preparation services — but does not include hospitals, nursing care or state universities, administration officials said. The overall cost to the state and its contractors was projected at just above $4 million.

The wage level, which will increase with inflation, was designed to be in line with the executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2014 that required federal contractors to pay their workers at least $10.10 an hour, a figure that rises with inflation.

Rep. Kevin Schrieber, D-York City, praised the governor's initiative, saying it brings the conversation about increasing the minimum wage for all workers to the forefront while providing higher pay for state workers.

"A person in the wealthiest country in the world shouldn't work 40 hours a week to live below the poverty line," Schreiber said.

The state's minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.

Question: Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, called into question the broad language of the order he said reads as though it would increase wages for more than just state and contracted workers.

"That's ridiculous," Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Wolf's office, said. "The governor doesn't have the authority to increase the minimum wage for everyone. That lies with the Legislature."

Grove also called the governor's order a way of side-stepping the Legislature.

"Once again the governor is trying to legislate by fiat," he said.

Bills: Wolf said he was acting now because the change in state law that he had hoped for has not happened.

Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Legislature hasn't considered Wolf's request to set the minimum at over $10 for everyone. Pennsylvania wages are set at the decade-old federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, as are wages in 20 other states.

Wolf has said before that he wants to see the minimum wage in the state increased to $10.15 and called for the increase in 2016-17 budget documents last month. Raising the minimum wage would generate an added $60 million in tax revenue, the governor's office said.

There are bills in the Legislature to up the minimum wage, but they have not seen much traction. One measure, Senate Bill 195, would take it to $10.10 and a second, Senate Bill 610, by Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, would gradually increase it 50 cents each year until it reaches $8.75 an hour.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.