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Inflation made Pa.’s minimum wage worth even less

Plus, Mastriano backs away from Gab amid criticism.

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Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
August 1, 2022
Pay gaps, logged off, no name, emergency notice, college costs, heavily redacted, and long live Jim's Steaks. It's Monday and August.

It's been 13 years since the last minimum wage hike for Pennsylvania workers, and the $7.25 hourly rate is worth far less now amid rising inflation.

The Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, says a worker making $7.25-an-hour today is actually earning 27.4% less than a worker making the same amount when it became the federal minimum in 2009.

The federal adoption of a $7.25-an-hour national minimum wage made it the minimum in states like Pennsylvania by default.

And while state lawmakers could raise the bottom here at any time, they haven't, despite annual appeals from Gov. Tom Wolf to the GOP-led legislature. As a result, Pennsylvania continues to have one of the lowest rates and one of the longest stretches without a related hike in the country.

The Economic Policy Institute found that the federal minimum wage — and therefore Pennsylvania's — is at its lowest value since 1956.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania is one of 20 states — and the only one in the mid-Atlantic region — that hasn't raised its minimum wage above $7.25.

Here's a look at the arguments for and against a hike in Pennsylvania and the likely impacts, published by Spotlight PA in March 2021. 

Richard Paulsen, an assistant professor of economics at Bloomsburg University, told WVIA last week that the lack of a minimum wage hike could have long-term consequences for younger workers who are most likely to earn it and more likely to opt out as inflation saps buying power.

In lieu of legislative action on this issue, Wolf has raised wages for state employees via executive order and for most tipped workers via a new regulation advanced by his Department of Labor & Industry. 

The latter takes effect Friday and applies to service industry workers whose base pay can be cut from $7.25-an-hour to $2.83-an-hour if they make more than $30 in tips a month. The new rule raises that bar to $135 in monthly tips, but some workers and employers say the impact will be negligible. 


"Patriot Pat Toomey stood on the floor and said, 'This is a slush fund. They're gonna use $400 billion to spend on whatever they want.' That's nonsense."

—Comedian Jon Stewart criticizing U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) for blocking veteran burn pit legislation that Toomey says contains a 'budget gimmick'
Some sumac, via Don H., who found this specimen "growing naturally on an unnatural semi-reclaimed coal surface mine." Send us your Pennsylvania photos, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
GAB PIVOT: Republican Doug Mastriano is condemning antisemitism and distancing himself from the founder of a social media site popular with antisemites and far-right extremists. TribLIVE reports Mastriano has removed his account from the platform amid widespread condemnations. He's also dealing with lackluster fundraising and new polling that shows him slipping in the governor's race.

SECRET PICK: If elected governor, Doug Mastriano has said he would appoint a secretary of state who would force every Pennsylvania voter to reregister — something that's illegal under federal law. Mastriano said he's already chosen his appointee, but he won't say who it is. And while opponents only have informed guesses, they're sure the person will be a prominent figure in the election denial movement, per HuffPost.

HEALTH SCARE: A state Senate panel is probing Democrat John Fetterman's handling of a health emergency that paused his U.S. Senate campaign and lieutenant governor duties earlier this year. PennLive reports Senate State Government Committee Chairman Dave Argall (R., Schuylkill) is calling on Fetterman to testify before the panel and offer more info on how Gov. Tom Wolf was notified of the situation.

TUITION HIKE: Penn State University will receive a $12.1 million funding boost from Gov. Tom Wolf's share of discretionary federal stimulus funding. But the school is still set on raising tuition rates as Republicans in the state House urge it to use the one-time allocation to roll back any hike. Centre Daily Times reports university officials say the one-time boost isn't enough to offset larger financial pressures.

HIDDEN FINDINGS: A review spurred by the police shooting that killed 8-year-old Fanta Bility outside of a football game in Sharon Hill last year is prompting new criticism of local officials. A report on the review of Sharon Hill Police Department policies and procedures was released Friday and so heavily redacted that any findings and recommendations have been obscured from public view, the AP reports.

NEW RULES: The ACLU says it's gearing up for a fight over "Orwellian" policies governing student communications at Bucks County's Pennridge School District, via WHYY, citing unconstitutional censorship.

LIFE DEBT: Betty Ann from Pittsburgh borrowed $29,000 in federal loans to attend college in 1983 and owes $329,309.69 today. Her story leads off a New Yorker piece on "the aging student debtors of America."

'AN AMAZING TRAUMA': Pittsburgh writer Adriana E. Ramírez competed on Jeopardy, lost, and feels great about it. She detailed how losing on national TV can actually be awesome for The Atlantic.

CUB REPORT: Two orphaned grizzly bears from Montana are headed to a wildlife sanctuary in Bulgar, Pennsylvania after Montana wildlife officials euthanized their food-conditioned mother, per the Flathead Beacon.

FIRE DAMAGE: The owner of Philadelphia's famed Jim's Steaks hopes to reopen by next year after a two-alarm blaze at the eatery on Friday. The owner told Billy Penn the damage isn't as bad as they'd feared.

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

*This week's theme: Handwriting

Friday's answer: Cyberspace

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