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Two paths to a $15 minimum wage in Pa.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Ed Mahon
February 10, 2021
Getting to $15, vaccine software, life without parole, Montgomery County, shooting lawsuit, a lucky pilot, and 84,000 fastnachts. Happy Wednesday.

There's a renewed effort to raise the minimum wage for the lowest-paid workers in Pennsylvania, both on a state and national level.

First, there's the push in Washington, D.C., as Democrats control Congress and the White House. President Joe Biden wants a $15 an hour minimum wage by 2025, although he recently said it appears unlikely to survive negotiations over a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

And, in Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is again urging the GOP-controlled legislature to raise the minimum wage, saying the disruption from the coronavirus makes it even more important to increase pay for essential workers.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania is one of 21 states where the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. All of our neighbors have higher rates, ranging from $8.75 an hour in West Virginia to at least $12.50 an hour in New York. The rate in Pennsylvania hasn't changed since 2009.

Wolf has tried to raise the minimum wage every year since taking office. The closest he came was in 2019 when the Republican-controlled state Senate approved a gradual increase to $9.50 an hour by 2022. But Republicans who control the House never brought that bill up for a vote.

The governor's latest proposal, made as part of his budget plan, would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour on July 1, gradually increase the rate by 50 cents each year, and reach $15 an hour on July 1, 2027.

Nationally, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 would raise income for at least 17 million people, but also cost about 1.4 million workers their jobs.

During a news conference Tuesday, Wolf fielded multiple questions about the impact on small shops and the possibility of layoffs. The governor disputed that raising the minimum wage does lead to job losses, but said, even if it does, people need to consider other factors. Minimum wage workers will have more money to spend at Pennsylvania businesses and restaurants, Wolf said, and taxpayers will spend less money on food assistance and health care for low-wage workers.

"If you're making $7.25 an hour, you're taking advantage of a lot of taxpayer-funded programs," Wolf said.

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“We are still traumatized. You see the lot, and you see the crosses, and you remember: People died there.”

—Elsa Reyes, an Allentown resident who lives on a street where a gas explosion killed five people a decade ago
VACCINE UPDATE: The state rolled out a tool that tells Pennsylvanians when they are eligible for a vaccine, though it does nothing to help them find and schedule an appointment. RSVP for FREE for our reader Q&A on the COVID-19 vaccine and latest variants on Thursday at 5 p.m. For providers, check Spotlight PA's vaccine map and county-by-county listing.
POST IT: A pileated and a hairy woodpecker on a homemade suet feeder on a snowy day in Huntingdon County. Thanks another photo, James G.Send us your hidden gems (or snow pictures!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
MORE VACCINE PROBLEMS: A software system, which cost the state Department of Health $852,000, overbooks clinics, sends patients incorrect or conflicting scheduling reminders, and has other serious flaws, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf said he's creating a bipartisan task force to help improve the state's vaccination efforts.

FELONY MURDER: Lawyers for people serving life sentences without the possibility of parole say Pennsylvania's mandatory sentencing system has vast racial disparities and is unconstitutional, WLVR reports. The advocates say none of the six plaintiffs in the legal challenge directly caused or intended the death of the victim.

MONTCO-MANIA: Two attorneys and politicians from Montgomery County have key roles in former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. WHYY looks at the different paths former Republican District Attorney Bruce Castor and Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean took to this historical moment.

ALLEGED PRESSURE: A magisterial district judge in Harrisburg was suspended after she allegedly attempted to interfere with the February 2020 arrest of her son. District Judge Sonya McKnight also faces criminal charges of evidence tampering, obstruction, and official oppression, the Associated Press reports.

SHOOTING LAWSUIT: The city of Lancaster, its police department, and an officer face a lawsuit from the mother of Ricardo Muñoz, a 27-year-old man with schizophrenia who was killed by a police officer in September, WITF reports. The family says the video police released of the shooting doesn't tell the full story.

'LOVE IN ISOLATION': West Philly designer Wale Oyejide, whose fashion line appeared in "Black Panther," is used to traveling around the world for his work. But COVID-19 led him to focus on "ordinary people who happen to be beautiful in their own homes," he told Billy Penn. The story features selected images from the Philadelphia-based project.

84,000: That's how many fastnachts Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Columbia makes in a typical year. The deep-fried, yeast-based potato pastry is a common Pennsylvania Dutch treat ahead of Ash Wednesday. Fastnacht Day (or Fat Tuesday) falls on Feb. 16 this year.

PICK (ME) UP: A pizza shop manager in Erie says he's "been super busy" during the pandemic with "tons of deliveries." This story, inspired by National Pizza Day on Tuesday, features several shop owners who explain how carryout and delivery services have kept their businesses in good or better shape since March, despite larger struggles in the restaurant industry.

LUCKY LANDING: After a small plane made an emergency landing on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it was hit by two tractor-trailers. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries.

ERIE FALLS: I learned about this snowfall tracking website a few weeks ago. It's fascinating! Erie has lost its No. 1 spot this winter, but it still sits comfortably in the top 10. Allentown and Pittsburgh also rank high on the list of large cities.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Dichotomy 

Congrats to our daily winners: Bob R., Dixie S., Beth T., David I., George S., Neal W., Jessica K., Thomas T., Pat C., Susan D., John C., Theodore W., Mary Ellen T., Craig W., Carolyn T., Chris M., Sherri A., Jill G., Becky C., Patricia R., Jill K., Tom M., Kim C., Karen W., Ronnie S., Heidi B., Carol D., Irene R., Joel S., Donna W., Christopher R., John H., Tish M., Jill A-S., Dianne K., Ron P., Rita C., George S., Rick D., and Christine M.
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