Official: Wolf to boost wages for state workers, contractors

Gov. Tom Wolf

HARRISBURG (AP) – Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf was expected to sign an executive order Monday ensuring a minimum wage of $10.15 an hour for all employees under his jurisdictions and employees of Pennsylvania state government contractors.

An administration official would not give any other details about the order the Wolf is set to sign Monday. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly discuss the subject before Wolf’s announcement.

In any case, the Republican-controlled Legislature has shown no inclination to raise the state’s minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25, one of the lower levels in the nation. The executive order could be the most progress Wolf is able to achieve on the subject, given the partisan gridlock that has gripped the Capitol in the past year.

The administration official would not say before Wolf can discuss it how many people would benefit, or how much it would cost the state government. Currently, the Pennsylvania state government directs more than $70 billion a year – potentially above $80 billion a year soon – in state and federal dollars.

It was unclear whether it could potentially apply to current or just future contracts, and whether the order could include schools, universities, hospitals, insurers and other organizations that receive billions of dollars in education or Medicaid subsidies. It also was unclear whether it would include the billions of dollars that go to road construction work, or their numerous subcontractors.

Steve Crawford, a chief of staff to former Gov. Ed Rendell, said it would likely be a provision that is inserted into future contracts. Crawford said he expected that subsidy-receiving organizations, like schools and hospitals, would not be affected and that many contractors, such as those doing road work or information technology, already pay above the minimum wage.

“I don’t see it having a large-scale, detrimental effect on people who do business with the state,” Crawford said Sunday.

One effect of Wolf’s order could also be to raise the entire pay scale in state government contractors.

Since becoming governor last year, Wolf has asked the Republican-controlled Legislature to raise Pennsylvania’s $7.25 minimum wage to above $10, and to tie it to the inflation rate to maintain its buying power. However, Republican lawmakers are not warm to the idea and business advocacy groups oppose it.

The subject, like many others, has taken a backseat to the partisan spending and tax battles that have engulfed Wolf and state lawmakers, and brought gridlock unlike any seen in decades in Harrisburg. Wolf’s move might be similar to one by President Barack Obama in 2014, when he signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their workers at least $10.10 an hour.

Pennsylvania is lumped in with 20 other states that, as of Jan. 1, had minimum wages at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures and the National Employment Law Project. Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., have raised their minimums above the federal minimum. Those states include every single neighbor of Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, some states that already have higher minimum wages are raising theirs, or considering it.