Valley chamber of commerce leaders say an increased minimum wage could hurt businesses and possibly even employees themselves, even though Gov. Tom Wolf has called on the state Legislature to raise it to $10.15 an hour from $7.25.

Bob Garrett, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he believes states shouldn’t set the minimum wage.

“Our position is that the minimum wage is a federal issue,” he said. He worries that it would create a “patchwork of minimum-wage laws” and cause “confusion for businesses that work in a lot of different areas.”

Garrett said it would be a hassle for businesses to figure out who earns what in each different area. “It is one more unfunded mandate on small businesses,” he said.

Bruce Smith, president and CEO of the Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, is “worried that it will negatively impact the people it is supposed to help.”

He said small businesses can’t afford to pay higher wages because on average they “only make $50,000 per year” and that they would have to cut hours, freeze hiring and possibly fire people in order to absorb the additional cost.

However, John Dodds, director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project and state coordinator of Raise the Wage, supports Wolf’s proposal.

“I think it is commendable, and it needs to happen,” he said.

He said New York and California’s recent push “shows the amazing fact that Pennsylvania can’t even raise their minimum wage.”

Dodds said the state Legislature hasn’t touched the issue since 2005, when it raised the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25.

He said it is unacceptable that states around Pennsylvania have raised their minimum wage since then, but “Pennsylvania is stuck at $7.25.”

Dodd said the tipped minimum wage hasn’t been raised in 17 years and is only $2.83 an hour. He said the minimum wage needs to be $10 per hour for everyone in the state.

The increase is needed for the working poor to “meet their basic needs,” he said.

If a wage increase would be improved, he said “94,000 people in northeast Pennsylvania would get a raise.”

Dodd said that with increased pay, minimum-wage workers would have more to spend. They could “buy a pizza or a pair of shoes or go to the movies.”

He said the state government also would benefit from an increase. He said the state budget would receive $225 million more in tax money each year.

Some businesses already are raising the minimum wage paid to their employees without the government’s incentive. Over the past two years, corporations like Giant Food Stores, Sheetz Gas Stations and Convenience Stores, Wawa Inc. and Weis Markets have raised wages for workers.

Giant raised its associates’ wages to $9 last year, and Weis Markets raised its hourly rate to $9 for its associates.

Jonathan Weis, Weis Markets chairman and CEO, said: “This new wage benchmark will not only benefit a significant number of our current associates, but it will also help us attract and retain talented associates to deliver best-in-class customer service every day. It is also important to note this move will have no impact on our prices.”

Email comments to eginader@dailyitem.com.

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