Crawford County’s four state legislators are split over a proposal to increase the minimum wage.

One supports the concept, another believes it is a federal, not a state issue, a third is vehemently opposed to it and the fourth wants to review the legislation before commenting.

“Ever since I campaigned in 1996, I have said the minimum wage should be a federal minimum wage, especially with my district bordering Ohio,” said Republican state Rep. Rod Wilt, whose 17th District includes central and southern Crawford County.

“We have to be competitive and we need to be cognizant of what other states are doing. I would like to see the federal Congress deal with the issue. I’ll see what happens. There have been some talks percolating at the committee levels, but I have not been involved.”

“I understand it’s an emotional issue,” he said, noting it may need to be considered, but added, “we don’t want to do something to undermine employers’ ability to have starting wages and (allow) employees (to) work themselves up.”

Republican state Rep. John Evans, whose Fifth District includes western Crawford County, said although he has not yet seen the bill, increasing the minimum wage is “a concept I generally support.”

He pointed out that many restaurants and businesses in Crawford County already pay their employees more than the minimum wage, “so I don’t see it as a real hazard for most Crawford County business... Some small business may be against it.”

He said he has two teen-age children working part-time jobs at $5.15 an hour. He said by the time taxes are taken out and with the price of gasoline and other costs skyrocketing, some people believe “it doesn’t make it worth the effort to work.”

“I support raising the minimum wage,” he said, but added it’s tough to say he would support the bill 100 percent because of last-minute amendments that may be attached to it.

Republican state Rep. Teresa Forcier, whose Sixth District includes northern and eastern Crawford County, opposes any minimum wage increase, saying it will be too burdensome on small businesses.

“Ever since taking office, I have opposed and will continue to oppose any attempt by state government to raise the minimum wage for the following reasons: increased unemployment, reduced working hours, loss of employee benefits and even more companies deciding to relocate or expand their operations in a more business friendly environment far outside of Pennsylvania.

“Results from a recent study commissioned by the Commonwealth Foundation and the Employment Policies Institute prove once again that increasing the minimum wage is a public policy formula equating to decreased economic growth and maximum unemployment. The study entitled ‘The Effects of the Proposed Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Increase’ found that enactment of a minimum wage hike would result in the loss of no less than 10,000 jobs and $350 million to the state economy,” she said.

“Clearly, there are far better ways to help both employers and employees keep more money in their pockets without government mandating how much Pennsylvania’s job creators must pay, including: Rolling back the governor’s 2003 Personal Income Tax Increase, allowing workers and employers to save money in Health Savings Accounts tax-free to pay for medical expenses and repealing the state cell phone tax that was also signed into law by the governor in 2003.

“If there’s one free market concept that has been reinforced again and again during my tenure as your state representative, it’s that’s government cannot create jobs or prosperity only Pennsylvania employers can.”

Republican state Sen. Bob Robbins, whose 50th District includes Crawford County, said he “understands there are plans to bring it up in the legislature probably in January,” but said he has not seen the specifics of any proposals yet.

“I look forward to looking at it and reviewing it,” he said of the proposal. Until he has the opportunity to review specifics, he said he has no stand about the concept of increasing the minimum wage.



Jane Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at jsmith@meadvilletribune.com

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