PA Help wanted sign

In this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, file photo help wanted signs for servers and cooks at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa are displayed along route 40 at the entrance to the resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania.

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s House majority leader said this week that Gov. Tom Wolf’s call for raising the minimum wage ignores the reality of the current labor market. 

“The private proprietors are almost doubling current wages on the signs that I see out there competing for manpower,” said Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte. “When you have a shortage of workers, capitalism works best because people are willing to pay the price to get them there.”

Benninghoff’s comments come amid a campaign from the Wolf administration to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 on July 1. The rate would increase an additional 50 cents each year until reaching $15.

Wolf said this will boost incomes for 1.1 million workers and generate as much as $326 million in tax revenue for the state when the rate maxes out in 2027.

The administration also points to broad public support – 67% of residents according to a Franklin & Marshall poll – and raised wages in 29 other states, including all those that border Pennsylvania. Another eight states are “on the path” to raising the minimum wage, according to the Department of Labor & Industry. 

Pennsylvania last raised the minimum wage in 2009. 

“Some employers paying poverty wages may have challenges attracting workers,” said Sarah DiSantis, a department spokesperson. 

Benninghoff argues that few employers, if any, are offering low wages. He said many complain about struggling to attract workers.

“I think it’s [minimum wage] taking care of itself,” he said. 

A survey from the National Federation of Independent Business found that 44% of small employers had open positions in April, the third month straight of “record high” reports of unfilled jobs.

The administration said pandemic-related challenges in securing child care or the lengthy process of becoming fully vaccinated explains why many residents still haven’t returned to work. 

Employers have said competing with enhanced unemployment benefits has been hard to overcome, even if with offers of higher wages and sign-on bonuses.

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.