- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

READING, Pa. (AP) - Gary Intelisano has a vision for his business on Carsonia Avenue.

Intelisano took over ownership of Intel’s Pennside Drive-In in July, and he has made some big changes, staying open 7 days a week, year round.

He said the drive-in is known for its ice cream, but he sees opportunities to grow its food and sandwich business.

As Intelisano makes his plans, he worries about one big spike in costs: a possible raise in the minimum wage.

“It would definitely put a hurting on us,” he said. “It would probably mean raising food prices, maybe laying off some help and would affect our workers’ compensation costs.”

In Pennsylvania, nearly 200,000 people earn the minimum wage or less, but an increase could affect hundreds of thousands more who earn just above the minimum and the businesses that employ them. With several key elections looming in the fall, proposals have been gaining attention to raise the minimum wage to as high as $10.10.

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is set at the federal level of $7.25. Some of the Keystone State’s neighbors have just raised their minimum wages.

Ohio, New York and New Jersey are among 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1. California will follow suit on July 1.

Intelisano said raising the minimum wage would have direct consequences for him, since he has two employees working at the minimum wage and another 10 who are close enough to it that they would get raises.

“It is something I am going to watch really closely,” he said.

It’s unclear if a higher minimum wage is coming to Pennsylvania any time soon.

Two bills in the state Legislature would raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. One, sponsored by state Rep. Patty Kim, a Dauphin County Democrat, would call for another increase to $10.10 after a year. The other bill, from state Rep. Mark Cohen, a Philadelphia Democrat, would raise the minimum wage to $11.50 after two years.

In December, Gov. Tom Corbett said he was reluctant to support an increase, citing a slowly improving economy.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey came to Reading in September to discuss the Fair Minimum Wage Act, a bill introduced earlier this year that he co-sponsored. The bill would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in even increments over three years and would include inflation-based increases each year afterward.

“This gets at the people who are working but struggling,” the Scranton Democrat said during his Reading visit.

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