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Pennsylvania state lawmakers kicked off three weeks of budget hearings on Monday, and the initial talks focused on a couple of proposals put forward by Gov. Tom Wolf.
The Democratic governor’s plan to raise the minimum wage sparked discussion along party lines in the state House Appropriations Committee. Democrats championed Wolf’s plan to immediately boost the minimum wage from $7.25, the federal rate, to $12 and then gradually increase it to $15, saying it will raise families out of poverty.
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Republicans, who hold a 19-seat majority in the House, raised questions to Matthew Knittel, the director of the state’s Independent Fiscal Office. The IFO, a nonpartisan agency, offers revenue projections to state lawmakers for budgetary issues.
Knittel, citing a report from last year, said nearly 2 million Pennsylvania workers currently make less than $15 an hour, and that includes tipped employees who previously were excluded from past wage hike proposals.
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While he told committee members that a minimum-wage increase would lead to additional tax revenue and less need for state assistance, it also would lead to a slight reduction in jobs. A $12 minimum wage would lead to about a 3 percent decrease, or approximately 33,000 jobs, in the workforce.
Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-White Township, said such a drastic hike would cause problems in his rural district, where high school and college students seek work with small local businesses.
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"A number of jobs we have are filled by young people looking for a basic start," he said.
However, Rep. Matthew Bradford, the Democratic chair, said that Pennsylvania needs to do...
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