Pa. Democrats host hearing on latest minimum wage proposal

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Democrats in the state House of Representatives took public testimony Monday on a proposal to raise the state's minimum wage.

The working proposal from Rep. Patty Kim (D - Dauphin County) would start the minimum wage at $9/hour for companies with fewer than 25 employees (an extra $3,640 annually per full-time employee), and $12/hour for those with more than 25 employees. Both rates would increase 50 cents/hour annually until 2023, when the companies with more than 25 employees would pay a $15/hour minimum wage.

"Slowly I think is the key," Kim said. "We don't want to shock people, we're not anti-business, we want to make sure that it's affordable and when you give low-wage workers more money, you increase their purchasing power, they're able to put the money back into the economy and things start to hum and get better."

Democrats from the House Policy committee took testimony from economic experts and business owners, including some who say they already pay above the minimum wage and have happier, more loyal employees.

"Four percent of my revenue actually came from my employees because they're being paid a livable wage," John Traynor, who owns the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center, said. "It means they have more disposable income, and so they're out shopping, they're out having a drink, coming to shows."

The proposal is expected to face opposition from Republicans in the House, who have not given it a hearing for years. But with new leadership in the House Labor & Industrial Committee, Democrats sense an opening.

"I think the minimum wage issue has turned bipartisan because so many low-wage workers have not been able to essentially get a raise," Kim said.