Visiting Meadville

Gov. Tom Wolf said in an interview with The Meadville Tribune today that he would like to see the state's minimum wage at $10.10 or $10.15.

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to see an increase in the $7.25 per hour minimum wage in Pennsylvania, but not necessarily to $15 per hour as some areas of the country have done or are attempting to do.

"We really need to raise the minimum wage — every state around us has a higher minimum wage," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a stop Thursday afternoon at The Meadville Tribune.

By executive order, Wolf already has raised the minimum wage to $10.15 per hour for state workers in the Executive Department and with contractors with the Commonwealth. Wolf's order raised the minimum wage for approximately 450 part-time state workers.

Crawford County has approximately 6,500 workers who would benefit from a minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour, according a study by the Keystone Research Center. The $10.10 per hour rate is the level President Obama signed as executive order for some federal workers and contractors with the federal government. That federal order is indexed to inflation and now is at $10.15 per hour, Wolf said.

Pennsylvania has about 1.2 million workers making $10.15 or less per hour with about 150,000 of those workers in Pennsylvania making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, Wolf said. 

Full time workers making $7.25 an hour often are eligible for food stamp assistance as well as child health care assistance, Wolf said. "The companies that are paying that low level are getting a (government) subsidy (for their workers) from the taxpayers," Wolf said.

Wolf said many private sectors firms already are starting to raise their wages to $10 or more, though Wolf said he wouldn't necessarily support an increase to $15 per hour in the minimum wage as some areas of the country already have done or are attempting to do.

"What would be wrong would be to try to raise it too high — no one knows exactly what that would be — or  too fast, that would be wrong," Wolf said. "But I think $10.10 or $10.15 is probably reasonable."

Medical marijuana

Gov. Wolf supports the use of medical marijuana to ease pain for severely ill patients in Pennsylvania. Wolf said he supports the legislation approved in the House and Senate this week and plans to sign the bill in ceremonies Sunday afternoon.

Wolf said he supports decriminalization of marijuana, but his support won't go beyond that.

"I think we spend too much money on trying to stop some of the non-violent crime that exists out there because of it," Wolf said. "We destroy families because we lock people up for mandatory sentencing. I'm willing to go to decriminalization (of marijuana), but I'm not ready to start licensing (marijuana) growers."

College costs

Access and affordability of higher education in Pennsylvania is a priority for Wolf, who previously served as the head of the board of trustees at York College. Wolf said he's working with his policy department and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to come up with a plan and wants to reach out soon to educators across the state to come up with a plan.

"If we don't accomplish that we're going to have a real problem," Wolf said.

State budget

Gov. Wolf acknowledges Pennsylvania's nine-month impasse over passing the 2015-2016 state budget caused a lot of pain and anguish, but he said his concern was regarding a looming budget deficit for Pennsylvania and wanted to make a point about it.

"We have a problem here and we've got to confront it," Wolf said of what he forecasts as a $2 billion deficit for Pennsylvania.

However, Wolf remains hopeful the state will have a 2016-2017 budget on time.

"I don't think people want to go through it again," he said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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