DRUMS — Freshman lawmaker Mike Cabell spoke in favor of public money for a school voucher program and against the state raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour in an address Thursday to the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce.
Rep. Cabell, R-117, Butler Twp., talked about the budget stalemate, which is nearing a month in length, and said a major factor was Gov. Josh Shapiro originally pledging to support a voucher program for students stuck in the worst-performing schools. Cabell said it would “rescue” the students.
“The governor had an agreement with the Senate. We were prepared to try to find the votes in the House to make this happen,” Cabell said. “For whatever reason he ended up at the last minute coming out and pledging he will veto that line item.”
On minimum wage, Cabell said he would support an increase to $11 an hour from the current $7.25, but not to $15.
The minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009 when it increased 10 cents because of a federal increase.
“If this plan were to come to fruition, it’s estimated 104,000 jobs would be lost ... and 58,000 of those jobs would come from small businesses,” he said.
Cabell supported amendments to the bill including one that would direct a minimum wage advisory board to analyze the impacts of raising the minimum wage.
“That was voted down,” he said.
He added, “I am a capitalist. I really believe the market dictates and demands wages.”
He said he doesn’t believe many people are being paid $7.25 an hour.
“When you bump the minimum wage up to $15 an hour ... that pushes up the lower end of the pay scale. It’s great for the person ... but for the economy in general all that’s going to do is raise the rates of inflation across the board. It’s going to raise the cost of anything we are trying to provide for our society.”
Cabell also addressed concerns about growing industry and housing demand in the Hazleton area.
“We need to let all these investors and developers know that the Hazleton area is open for business. Not only do you need housing, you need good schools, recreational activities and restaurants. You need everything that’s going to bring this workforce to the area,” he said.
He added that he often works with state Rep. Dane Watro, R-116, Kline Twp., in trying to better the area.
“I talk to him all the time. He’s pounding the pavement, talking to developers, making sure we get folks in to provide high-quality housing and affordable prices,” he said. “It will get there, the market will force it.”
He acknowledged it will take some time and there will be “some growing pains. We’re in it right now.”