A $15 minimum wage would mean higher pay and job losses, according to a new analysis. Do Pennsylvania lawmakers support the proposed wage hike?
Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would boost the wages of at least 17 million Americans and lift more than 1.3 million people out of poverty, according to a new report that also projects it could cost roughly 1.3 million jobs nationwide.
That analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office comes as Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have been preparing to hold a vote on legislation that would raise the $7.25 minimum wage over five years and link future increases to inflation.
Pennsylvania is one of 20 states that remains at the $7.25 federal minimum, which was set in 2009.
Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation largely splits along party lines on the issue. All nine of the state’s Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have supported the Raise the Wage Act, including Rep. Susan Wild, whose 7th District includes Lehigh, Northampton and part of southern Monroe counties.
“Frankly, raising the minimum wage is long overdue," Wild said in a statement. “It’s been nearly a decade — the longest period of time without an increase — since we’ve raised the federal minimum wage, an issue that was once inherently bipartisan and uncontroversial.”
Wild has highlighted data from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute projecting that raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would give a raise to 98,400 people in her congressional district.
The CBO’s report did not break out projected effects on wages and employment by congressional district. Its findings came with a caveat of uncertainty: the report’s authors wrote it is hard to predict future wage growth or the response from employers. They noted some studies have found little or no effect on employment from minimum wages, while others have found substantial reductions in employment.
The report predicted that the wage hike would boost pay for 17 million people earning less than $15 an hour. Another 10 million Americans who would otherwise be earning slightly more than $15 per hour also could see their wages rise as a result.
It also predicted that once a $15 minimum wage was fully implemented, 1.3 million jobs could be lost. That was the median estimate, with the likely range of resulting job losses between zero and 3.7 million. Roughly half of those affected by the job losses would be teenagers, according to the report, with part-time workers and adults without a high school diploma also disproportionately affected.
Republican Rep. Dan Meuser, who voted against wage hike proposal when the House Education and Labor Committee advanced the bill in March, said the CBO report shows that hiking the minimum wage would have a negative economic effect.
“An unprecedented 107% minimum wage increase is not a realistic proposal,” said Meuser, whose district includes Carbon and Schuylkill counties. “CBO’s report confirms that such an effort would be harmful to local economies and families.”
A spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick said the congressman is still reviewing the legislation, the CBO report and other data, and does not yet have a position on the bill.
Fitzpatrick has expressed some openness to raising the minimum wage, and in a December op-ed piece, suggested a tiered minimum wage based on regional cost-of-living differences.
Pennsylvania’s two senators also have split on raising the minimum wage. Democrat Bob Casey supports the $15 per hour rate, and Republican Pat Toomey has long voted against bills to raise the federal minimum wage, saying states are free to make their own decisions.