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Raise the minimum wage and rebuild a state that works for all Pennsylvanians

Joanna McClinton, Jordan Harris and Matt Bradford
Rep. Joanna McClinton
Rep. Jordan Harris
Rep. Matt Bradford
A $5 and $10 bill on a U.S. flag

The impact of COVID-19 has shaken us to our core. We’ve lost so many lives, with many more forever changed. It’s been an incredible burden on all of us as we work and sacrifice to save lives and keep Pennsylvanians in good health. But many of the problems we are all experiencing are not the direct result of COVID-19. The virus merely stripped away the polite façade and showed us the rotting beams we can no longer wait to repair. Pennsylvania needs to take concrete steps to support its workforce and economy to ensure this is a commonwealth for all people.

Pennsylvanians need and deserve a raise. For the last six years, we have joined Gov. Tom Wolf in calling for a reasonable increase to the minimum wage, which has been stuck at the federal floor of $7.25 per hour since 2009. This wage cannot sustain an individual, much less a family, in any corner of the commonwealth. This year’s budget again calls for an immediate increase to $12, with an incremental path to $15. One million Pennsylvanians — predominantly essential workers, so many of whom are women heads of household — will see an immediate and significant impact. These are the workers who’ve carried us through this pandemic since Day One and will shoulder the burden to get us the rest of the way out of this. They need more than a pat on the back — they need a boost to their paycheck.

Pennsylvanians need to be able to afford time off when they’re sick — not just for themselves, but to protect all of us. Only 14% of the private sector workforce has access to any type of paid family leave. At least nine other states have enacted “Family Care Acts” allowing employees to buy into state insurance programs so that they can plan for their own futures. This bipartisan proposal would help working people and provide small businesses the ability to compete with large businesses who already offer leave benefits. 

Pennsylvanians need a tax cut. Money trickles up, not down. Study after study has shown that giving working people more money in their pocket boosts the economy because they spend it. And it’s only fair and logical that those who earn the most can afford to help the most to move our economy forward. Gov. Wolf has proposed a bold plan to restructure the personal income tax and give the majority of Pennsylvanians a tax cut while still keeping taxes low for everyone. 

Pennsylvanians need schools that will prepare all kids for a lifetime of success. The state has failed to uphold its side of the bargain by only contributing 38% of the cost of education. The balance falls to taxpayers who cover the rest through property taxes. In some districts in this state, no matter how high they raise their taxes, they will never be able to generate enough funding to match wealthier districts in adequately educating their kids. The right to education should not be dependent on a child’s ZIP code. The proposed budget increases funding for all 500 districts in the commonwealth while targeting funding to those districts with the most kids or the highest taxes — essentially, the ones who need it the most.

The last year has been an unimaginable challenge, but it also presents a unique opportunity. We can choose to continue to ignore these issues or we can face them head on to ensure a bright future for all Pennsylvanians. We can work together to change what tomorrow holds for all people of the commonwealth. It’s the rock-solid foundation this state is built on, and it’s the rock-solid foundation we will use to get the job done.

Leader Joanna McClinton represents the 191st House District, which includes portions of Philadelphia and Delaware counties. Whip Jordan Harris represents the 186th House District in Philadelphia County. Appropriations Chair Matt Bradford represents the 70th District in Montgomery County.