By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf raised the minimum wage for state workers and employees of some contractors by 40 percent to $10.15 an hour on Monday, a gesture aimed in part at putting pressure on Republican lawmakers.
Wolf, a Democrat, who signed an executive order to make the change, acknowledged that only 450 of the state’s 79,000 employees, mainly temporary workers hired during tax season, are currently paid less than $10.15 an hour. He said he hoped to send a message to the Republican-dominated Legislature to enact a similar increase for all Pennsylvania residents.
“An increase in the minimum wage will lead to increases in employee morale, productivity, and quality of work and decreases in turnover and the cost of training and supervision,” said Wolf, who lacks the power to order the statewide increase.
At a press conference, Wolf said a statewide increase would benefit business in the long run. Fourteen states have a minimum wage of at least $10.
The governor said inflation had pushed the value of the state’s current $7.25 minimum wage below the poverty line. Going forward, the state would adjust the minimum wage for government workers to keep up with inflation, he said.
Wolf did not specify where the money would come from when questioned during the news conference.
Pennsylvania has been without a state budget since July 1 because of Republican resistance to raising taxes and Wolf’s refusal to sign a budget that he said would lead to a gaping structural deficit.
The wage increase announced for state employees would cost the state $1.5 million and will take effect immediately. It would apply to many but not all contractors doing business with the state, costing the state an extra $2.6 million.
About 60 percent of that will go to contract employees at the state’s photo license bureaus, but only when those contracts are renewed.
The minimum wage increase will not apply for now to human service agencies funded by the state, Wolf said, because they are already “stressed” by delayed funding caused by the budget stand-off.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman accused Wolf of acting like President Barack Obama by seeking to implement policy changes through executive orders.
“Choosing to take symbolic executive action on this issue instead of working with the legislature underscores his failures to collaborate,” Corman said in a statement.
(Editing By Frank McGurty and Grant McCool)