HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania's state employees and contractors earning the minimum wage are getting a boost in their paychecks.
Starting this month, those employees and contractors will earn $12 per hour, up from $10.20, under an executive order signed by Gov. Wolf. The hourly wage will increase every year until it reaches $15 in 2024.
In all, the order increased the wages of 900 state employees as of July 1, and could affect an unknown number of state contractors as well, according to Wolf's Office of Administration.
"Pennsylvania must be a place where hard work is rewarded," Wolf said in signing the order late last month.
Once the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour, future increases will be based on the Consumer Price Index.
The executive order changes the minimum wage only for jobs under the governor's jurisdiction, including state employees and employees of contractors who spend 20 percent or more of their time on state projects. It also "encourages" state-related universities, state-affiliated entities, and the state's independent agencies — such as the Attorney General's Office, the Department of Treasury, and the Auditor General's Office – to adopt a similar order.
Wolf's long-standing call to raise the minimum wage for all workers in the state would require approval of the Republican-controlled legislature.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro has implemented the executive order in his office, according to a statement, although few employees were affected.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he, too, supports the governor's order and raising the minimum wage statewide. The office will not issue an order in response, but already had mandated that its interns be paid $15 per hour. The rest of the office receives higher pay, he added.
The Department of Treasury would go unaffected until 2021 under Wolf's executive order, because its base pay rate is $13.23 per hour, a spokesperson for the department said.
The state has 73,000 employees, with an additional 6,000 employees who earn hourly wages working part-time or seasonal hours, like temporary liquor store clerks or clerk-typists, said Dan Egan, director of communications for the Office of Administration.
Most of the state government workforce earns above the new minimum wage. However, as the minimum wage increases, more state employees will receive pay raises as it reaches their pay grade, Egan said.
"For the employees it does affect, it certainly is meaningful to them to see their pay go up an hour," he added.
This is the second time Wolf has raised the wage for state employees. In March 2016, he raised it from $7.25 to $10.20 per hour.
Trying to get a higher minimum wage for all employees in Pennsylvania has been frustrating for State Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D., Phila.), who championed the last minimum wage increase in 2006.
"Some people on the other side of the aisle feel that the state should not be involved in raising anybody's wages," she said. "But I think they're starting to come around. Just like they did in 2006."
In 2006, the state approved a minimum wage increase from $5.15 per hour to $7.15 before the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 in 2009.
When Tartaglione and other lawmakers were pushing for a minimum wage increase in 2006, the effort started with a small group of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh advocates, until advocates from all over the state filled the hallways of the Capitol. Today, she said, she senses similar stirrings.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry opposes any government-mandated wage hike, said Sam Densico, the chamber's vice president of government affairs.
The last time the state increased the minimum wage, Densico said, he heard from some of the chamber's 10,000 member companies that had to shift hours or cut jobs for seasonal employees.
"A one-size-fits-all government mandate doesn't work," he added.
The chamber would prefer that Wolf focus on his workforce training initiatives or shifting to an earned income tax credit program, Densico said.
But to Tartaglione, Wolf's executive order is a start. In February, she proposed Senate Bill 1044 — the same minimum wage adjustment that Wolf set out in his executive order — for the entire commonwealth. The bill, which is meant to amend the minimum wage for hourly workers and tipped employees, sits in the Labor and Industry Committee.
"This is a start," said Tartaglione. "And I think with other people getting a higher minimum wage in the state government, people will have to start to compete in regular business."
Contact Gillian McGoldrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.