HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania State House has passed legislation that would increase the state’s minimum wage for the first time since 1997. The House approved-plan (H.B. 257) is similar to an initial proposal offered by House Democrats and a plan supported by Gov. Ed Rendell; it calls for the wage to increase to $6.25 by July 1, 2006, with another increase to $7.15 by July 1, 2007. State Rep. John Siptroth said the proposal to raise the wage was originally introduced in February 2005, and its passage was the result of tireless negotiations between Democrats and Republicans. It has been a top priority for Siptroth since joining the legislature. “The passage of House Bill 257 will mean a brighter future for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians,” Siptroth said. “The united efforts of House and Senate Democrats, the governor, and labor and community groups have made this a success story for Pennsylvania.” “Although this increase doesn’t reflect the exact measure we advocated more than a year ago, I am pleased to be able to help those residents who need it most,” Siptroth said. “With a higher income, people will be able to support themselves and their families, and also contribute more to their local economies.” The minimum wage hasn’t been increased in the Commonwealth since 1997; 19 states and the District of Columbia currently have a higher minimum wage than Pennsylvania. At the current level of $5.15 an hour, a full-time minimum wage earner makes less than $11,000 a year, even while working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks year.