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Proposed raise in minimum wage too steep, local officials, businesses say

Published February 13. 2018 05:31AM

A raise in the state minimum wage to $12 an hour could have quite the impact, not only on employees, but also on the businesses that employ them.

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed the hike last week as part of his 2018-19 budget year that starts July 1.

The spending plan calls for lawmakers to raise the state minimum wage to $12 from $7.25 an hour — to save $100 million in social and human services costs.

However, Carbon County Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne E. Nothstein said he believes raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour would be “too high.”

“Here in the county, it would affect our summer help, part-time help,” Nothstein said. “There’s quite a few positions in the county that don’t get paid that; it would be a huge increase.”

Nothstein added, “If we have 25-30 employees that are going to get a $2-an-hour increase, that adds up over a period of time. It goes back to the taxpayers, who are going to have to make up the difference.”

“We, as a salary board, and commissioners in particular, would have to look at how many positions could we eliminate to make up for it,” he said. “It’s going to have a huge impact on the county budget for salaries, also workmen’s comp claims or payments are based on what we pay out annually on salaries.”

Barb Green, president of Blue Mountain Resort, said the issue of minimum wage always gets people talking.

“My feeling on that is minimum wage should be for those people who are head of households,” Green said. “If you apply that to all people under 21 who end up working for us, it doesn’t make any sense.”

Green said the resort has many employees under the age of 21 who work for them.

“We employ a lot of young adults who are not head of households or not major earners for the family,” she said. “That’s not what minimum wage is meant for; it just ends up passing it all on to the consumer.”

Chris Nelson, manager of the Beacon 443 Restaurant in Lehighton, said raising the minimum wage to that level would substantially impact her business.

“We’d either have to cut our staffing or raise prices, or a combination thereof,” Nelson said.

Kyle Whittaker, president of Hydra-Tech Pumps Inc. Nesquehoning, said it would not have much of an impact on his business, as most of the positions they have are skilled positions.

Whitaker said that from time to time, they do have an entry-level position, and that $12 might not be unusual for an entry-level job for them.

“I don’t think that change would have much of an impact on us,” Whittaker said. “It would seem to me it would have more of an impact on fast food restaurants, and retail.”

Marlyn Kissner, executive vice president for the Northern Region Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and Carbon Chamber and Economic Development, said, “The chamber members agree that the current minimum wage needs to be increased but within reason. The policy stands today as it did one year ago, and the governor’s suggestion of increase to $12 would cripple our businesses.”

“The chamber supports an approach that sets a fair standard for employees, provides a manageable framework for business and removes political influence,” Kissner said. “We support an increase to $9.25, along with stipulations that tying increases to the CPI-W index, which provides predictable and measurable increases and consideration of a tiered regional minimum wage structure which specifies in a thoughtful manner different rates based on the socio-economic circumstances of the area in question.”

Wolf’s proposed budget also includes spending for schools, Marcellus Shale tax and a charge for state police.

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