$9.50 minimum wage bill advances in Pennsylvania Legislature

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A compromise package to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage for the first time since 2009 began advancing in the Legislature on Monday, up against a deadline for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to relent on his effort to extend overtime pay eligibility to thousands of workers.

A Senate committee passed the newly unveiled measure to raise the minimum wage in four steps to $9.50 in 2022, up from the state's current minimum wage, the federal minimum of $7.25.

Wolf, who negotiated the bill behind closed doors with leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature, supports the bill, his office said in a statement.

“While he still believes the minimum wage should be $12 or more, this would represent a significant step towards that goal,” his office said.

Senate Republican leaders expect to bring it to a floor vote this week, although its prospects in the House of Representatives are unclear.

The bill is far more modest than what Wolf proposed in January, and requires him to make a number of concessions. That includes rescinding his proposed overtime regulation before a state rule-making board votes on it Thursday.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, which, like most Republican lawmakers, has long opposed an increase in the minimum wage, has backed a compromise on raising minimum wage as the lesser of two evils.

Wolf’s overtime proposal threatens steeper cost increases on employers, its officials say.

The federal minimum wage was last increased to $7.25 an hour in 2009.

Currently, Pennsylvania is one of 21 states whose minimum wage is set at the federal minimum, while half of the 50 states have authorized an automatic future wage increase of some sort. About 385,000 people in Pennsylvania hold a job that pays between $7.25 an hour and $9.50 an hour, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry.

Wolf began pursuing the new overtime regulation last year after fruitlessly asking Republican lawmakers since 2015 to increase Pennsylvania's minimum wage.

The proposed overtime rule would expand overtime pay eligibility to 82,000 workers who earn above a new federal threshold that's rising to almost $36,000 on Jan. 1, Wolf’s administration has said. Pennsylvania's total nonfarm payrolls are just above 6 million.

It would phase in the increase over three years and require in 2022 that salaried workers earning up to $45,500 a year get time-and-a-half pay for any time they work over 40 hours in a week.

Pennsylvania's current threshold is set at the federal baseline of $23,660, although the administration said the rising federal threshold will make 61,000 workers in the state newly eligible for overtime pay.

The current threshold took effect in 2004.