Pennsylvania’s leading small business advocacy association, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), is sounding the alarm over a proposed new bill in the state House, HB 1135, that would hike the Pennsylvania minimum wage to $21/hour. The legislation is not yet scheduled for a hearing in the House but has overwhelming support within the one-seat Democrat majority.
This newly dropped bill, sponsored by Philadelphia Democrat Christopher Rabb, would raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to an astonishing $21/hour for minimum wage workers. While the proposal is concerning on many levels, the most troubling aspect is the wide-ranging support from 35 other Democrat members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Members, such as Rep. Justin Flemming (D-Dauphin County), who don’t represent overly progressive districts, have signed on with their full support.
Are these elected officials crazy, or are they just pandering to voters by submitting outrageous proposals? Nearly tripling the minimum wage to $21/hour would mean that the average full-time minimum wage worker would receive an annual salary of $43,680. Read that dollar figure again. $43,680 for the entry-level teenager just learning the soft skills of employment.
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The minimum wage was never meant to be a lifelong wage, and with the help of the pandemic wages have far surpassed $7.25. According to Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office, “…the data suggest that the effective market minimum wage is roughly $10/hour.” Now, 35 Democrats want to more than double the market minimum wage, and triple the statutory Pennsylvania minimum wage, to $21/hour.
Drastically raising labor costs will continue to drive inflationary pressures, leading to much higher consumer costs for goods and services. Can you imagine what your groceries, dining out, fuel, and other costs will skyrocket to? Whatever some lawmakers in Harrisburg may think, small business owners aren’t out at sea in their yachts drinking champagne. They can’t afford this proposal. The Commonwealth can’t afford this proposal.
This ill-informed bill comes as small business owners struggle to find workers, with 45 percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reporting job openings they could not fill in the current period, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report. The share of owners with unfilled job openings exceeds the 49-year historical average of 23 percent. Of those hiring or trying to hire, 92 percent of owners reported few or no qualified applications for the positions they were trying to fill.
Greg Moreland is the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Pennsylvania, a non-profit, non-partisan, organization representing 13,000 small businesses throughout the Commonwealth.