HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf raised the minimum wage by nearly $3 an hour, to $10.15, for state government employees and workers on jobs contracted by the state in an executive order he signed Monday.
The Democrat’s move establishing the new wage minimum comes a year into his term, as a crippling budget gridlock with Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature has frozen the Capitol building.
Wolf’s action will affect a few hundred state employees, mostly part-time clerical and janitorial workers who make somewhere between $8.77 to $10.06 an hour, according to union officials.
It also will affect a narrow set of state contracts — potentially 109 vendors that provide janitorial, landscaping, delivery and food preparation services — that does not include hospitals, nursing care or state universities, administration officials said. The overall cost to the state and its contractors was projected at just above $4 million.
The wage level, which will increase with inflation, was designed to be in line with the executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2014 that required federal contractors to pay their workers at least $10.10 an hour, a figure that rises with inflation.
Wolf said he was acting now because the change in state law that he had hoped for has not happened.
Top Republican lawmakers have not considered a minimum wage increase, and complained Monday that Wolf had acted alone and that it would drive up costs for employers. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, called it a “symbolic executive action.”
Pennsylvania wages are set at the decade-old federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, like 20 other states. Without federal action, numerous mayors, including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, are bumping employee wages higher, some to $12 or $15 an hour.
Democrat Andrew Cuomo used his power as New York’s governor to order gradual wage increases for state employees, state university employees and workers at fast-food chain restaurants, to $15 an hour.
Last week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation to raise that state’s $9.25 an hour to as high as $14.75 in Portland by 2022. In Maine, voters will consider in November whether to raise that state’s $7.50 minimum wage to $12 an hour, after Republican Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a measure in 2013.
Last year, Illinois’ Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner rescinded his Democratic predecessor’s order to state vendors to pay employees $10 an hour, instead of the state’s minimum wage of $8.25.