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Family Budget Data Offered as Argument for PA Minimum Wage Hike

Workers around the country seek a $15 an hour minimum wage. Credit: The All-Nite Images/fickr.com
Workers around the country seek a $15 an hour minimum wage. Credit: The All-Nite Images/fickr.com
August 31, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. – As bills to increase the minimum wage languish in Harrisburg, new information is being offered showing people earning the minimum don't come close to a secure standard of living.

The statistics, compiled by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, were released late last week. They show what a modest family budget looks like in 18 regions across the state.

Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, says the numbers show minimum wage workers need a raise.

"When you add all the numbers up, there are a lot of families in Pennsylvania that don't earn enough to really live the comfortable, adequate lifestyle," he points out.

The minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25 an hour, same as the federal minimum, which hasn't been raised since 2009.

According to Price, a full-time job at minimum wage brings in $15,000 a year, far short of what the institute finds necessary for meeting basic needs for a single adult, even in rural areas where the cost of living is slightly lower. Price says a rural adult would need almost twice the income provided by the minimum wage.

"Our estimate is that it's roughly $27,000 a year, and that includes expenses for food, transportation, housing, health care and other basic needs," he explains.

In urban areas, he says the number for a single adult's basic needs climbs to $33,000, and for a two-parent family with children it's more than $52,000.

Advocates are calling for a minimum wage of $15 an hour. And though it sounds like a lot more money, Price says it's not really a raise.

"We're not talking about raising the minimum wage above what it used to be,” he stresses. “We're really just trying to get it back to where it used to be. We're trying to restore the purchasing power that people have lost over time."

Gov. Tom Wolf has endorsed bills that would raise the wage to $10.10 an hour. A Republican bill would increase it to $8.75, but there's been no action on either proposal.

Price says the longer the budget impasse goes on in Harrisburg, the less likely there will be any minimum wage increase.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA