Mayor Bill Peduto speaks at a Raise the Wage rally at the City County Portico, Downtown.

Mayor Bill Peduto speaks at a Raise the Wage rally at the City County Portico, Downtown.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

Pittsburgh Democrats want to raise Pa.’s minimum wage, but getting state Republicans on board won’t be easy

Whether your state rep. or senator supports raising the minimum wage depends on if there’s a “D” or “R” after his name.

Sarah Anne Hughes

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour, a nearly $5 increase from the status quo.

But getting that done this year with the Republican-controlled assembly will be “tough,” state Sen. Jay Costa told The Incline on Thursday after a rally outside the City-County Building. He was joined by Mayor Bill Peduto, state Rep. Ed Gainey, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Councilman Corey O’Connor.

“We have to continue to be advocates, strong advocates,” Costa continued. “That’s why events like today, raising awareness about where Pennsylvania stands as it relates to the states in this region, the Northeast region, [are] important. Talking about the face of the minimum wage person: that they’re minorities and primarily women and older adults. That conversation, that advocacy has to take place.”

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, the lowest allowed by federal law. The state is surrounded by higher minimum wages in New York ($10.40 an hour), Maryland ($9.25), West Virginia ($8.75), New Jersey ($8.62), Ohio ($8.32) and Delaware ($8.25).

As Peduto pointed out Thursday, Pittsburgh is gradually raising the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. But that’s about all the city can do, because of its second-class status.

Wolf’s budget calls for the state to increase the minimum wage to $12, which if implemented by Jan. 1, 2018 would increase revenue by $40 million, according to an analysis by Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office. The IFO also projected a loss of nearly 54,000 jobs because of the increase, while more than 1.2 million workers would have a higher wage as a result. The governor’s office disputes the analysis.

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Just how partisan is this issue? Let’s look at state Rep. Patty Kim 2015 bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. All but one of Allegheny County’s Democrats in the House was a co-sponsor of the bill; no Republicans from the county’s delegation were. In late March, Kim released a memo seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2023. It has yet to be introduced.

PA Representative Party Co-sponsor 2015 bill to raise min wage to $10.10/hour
Adam Ravenstahl Democrat Yes
Anita Astorino Kulik Democrat Not in office
Anthony M. DeLuca Democrat Yes
Dan Frankel Democrat Yes
Dan L. Miller Democrat Yes
Daniel J. Deasy Democrat Yes
Dom Costa Democrat Yes
Ed Gainey Democrat Yes
Frank Dermody Democrat Yes
Harry Readshaw Democrat Yes
Jake Wheatley Jr. Democrat Yes
Joseph F. Markosek Democrat Yes
Marc J. Gergely Democrat Yes
Paul Costa Democrat Yes
Robert F. Matzie Democrat No
William C. Kortz II Democrat Yes
Eli Evankovich Republican No
Harold A. English Republican No
Jason Ortitay Republican No
John Maher Republican No
Mark Mustio Republican No
Mike Turzai Republican No
Rick Saccone Republican No

On the Senate side, state Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione has introduced a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021. Support for that bill and similar bills introduced by Tartaglione also fall on party lines in Allegheny County.

None of the area’s senators, regardless of party, supported state Sen. Scott Wagner of York’s 2015 proposal to raise the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour over an undefined three year period. Wagner, a Republican who wants to challenge Wolf in 2018, plans to introduce the same bill this session.

PA Senator Party Co-sponsor 2017 bill to raise minimum wage to $15 by 2021 Co-sponsor 2014 bill to raise minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 Co-sponsor 2015 bill to raise minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 Co-sponsor 2015 bill to raise minimum wage to $15 30 days after passage Co-sponsor 2014 bill to raise minimum wage to $12 30 days after passage
Guy Reschenthaler Republican No Not in office Not in office Not in office Not in office
James R. Brewster Democrat Yes Yes Yes No No
Jay Costa Democrat Yes Yes Yes No No
Randy Vulakovich Republican No No No No No
Wayne D. Fontana Democrat Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

If legislators aren’t able to come to an understand by the June 30 budget deadline, Costa said the issue could get more discussion in the fall or in 2018. He said people who support an increase in the minimum wage should not only talk to their legislators but should start a conversation in their own communities.

“Be educated about the issues,” Costa said. “Be armed with information. Take it to members and family members, and have them become advocates as well.”


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