Measures Boosting the Minimum Wage Move Forward in Many States

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 5:34 PM by

While Bills Advance in Minnesota and Elsewhere, Four Red States Are Poised for Minimum Wage Referenda

Republican opposition might bottle up the national minimum wage increase being pushed by the President, but the strong public support for a higher minimum wage is forcing action at the state level.  Many blue states are approving substantial increases in the minimum hourly wage, and voters are putting increases on the ballot in a number of red states. 

Today Minnesota became the latest state to pass a significant minimum wage increase. Within the last 24 hours, both houses approved a bill that would raise the minimum wage in the Gopher State to $8.00 per hour in August, and then in two more steps to $9.50 per hour in 2016. The increased wage would apply to businesses with more than half a million dollars in annual gross sales.

Beginning in 2017, the MN minimum wage would rise automatically with inflation, up to 2.5% a year. Read more

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New Numbers, Familiar Pattern: Wisconsin Job Growth Continues to Lag National Average

Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 3:09 PM by

New employment figures show a familiar pattern: Wisconsin is adding private-sector jobs  at a rate considerably below the national average.

In light of that persistent pattern, it comes as no surprise that the latest economic outlook report released today by the Department of Revenue indicates that Wisconsin will fall far short of the Governor’s goal of adding 250,000 private sector jobs. The Department of Revenue projects just 134,000 new jobs from 2010 to 2014.

The number of private sector jobs in Wisconsin grew by 1.2% between September 2012 and September 2013, a little more than half the national pace of 2.1%. Wisconsin ranked 35th among the states over this period for the rate of growth in private sector jobs.

The new job creation figures come from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which economists consider the most reliable source for employment figures. The downside is that this data source is not as current as other, less reliable sources for employment figures. Read more

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Senators Reach Bipartisan Agreement on Federal Unemployment Benefits

Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 5:21 PM by

Fate of the Federal Lifeline for Long-term Job-seekers Still Uncertain

Ten U.S. Senators announced today that they have reached a deal for restoring federal unemployment benefits for about 2 million people who have lost those benefits since the end of 2013.  The compromise would extend the expired program through the end of May, and would make the restored benefits retroactive to the beginning of the year.  That would be very welcome new for many jobless workers and their families who are struggling with one of the harshest winters in decades.  

The deal appears to have at least 60 votes, which would make it immune from the filibusters that have stymied other efforts in the Senate to restore the federal lifeline for the long-term unemployed.  Although the prospects for passage in the Senate now look very good, its chances in the House are unclear.  Some House conservatives quickly condemned the bill today. Read more

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Wisconsin Representatives Bucking the Tide on Wage Laws

Monday, February 17, 2014 at 6:09 PM by

State and local policymakers in many parts of the country are coming to the conclusion that too many workers get paid too little, and they are pushing for higher wage standards for workers. Yet in Wisconsin, lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction.

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Thousands of Wisconsinites Stand to Lose Unemployment Benefits Unless Congress Acts

Monday, December 2, 2013 at 11:50 AM by

Thousands of out-of-work Wisconsinites who have been searching for a job for a long time will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year, unless Congress acts to renew federal unemployment benefits. According to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project, 65,500 jobless workers in Wisconsin will lose access to federal benefits over the next six months, as shown in the chart below.


Most states pay unemployment insurance benefits to jobless workers for a maximum of 26 weeks. In times of higher unemployment, Congress authorizes federally-funded benefits that provide assistance to people who reach the limit on their state-financed unemployment insurance. If the program that provides federal unemployment benefits is allowed to end, the maximum duration of unemployment benefits for jobless workers in Wisconsin will drop by more than half, from 54 weeks to 26 weeks.

The Budget Project’s analysis notes that 36 percent of jobless workers have been unemployed six months or more, which is far above the rate of long-term unemployment in previous recessions. Read more

Large Employment Gap for American Indians in Wisconsin

Friday, November 29, 2013 at 4:11 PM by

November was Native American Heritage Month, but for most of the month all we have heard about was the mascot issue and casinos.  The national stories about the “code-talkers” during World War II were a welcome exception to the dearth of positive stories about American Indians during the first half of the month, though those stories drew attention to just a very brief glimpse of Indian history and contributions.   

In addition to wishing that the media would shed more light on Native Americans’ contributions to American history and culture, I would like to hear more about the economic challenges facing American Indians, particularly those living in “Indian country.”  The following graphic, prepared by my colleague Tamarine Cornelius, shows that the unemployment rate for Native Americans in Wisconsin is almost twice the rate for non-Hispanic whites, and the poverty rate is more than two and a half times as high for Native Americans (25.3% vs. Read more

Packers and Vikings Tie the Game, but What about Wisconsin and Minnesota?

Monday, November 25, 2013 at 2:51 PM by

Yesterday’s competition between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings ended in a rare tie game. That game is finished, but there is another competition that is still going on between Wisconsin and Minnesota, one that involves job creation and economic growth, rather than touchdowns and field goals.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are similar states in many ways, but we are taking very different approaches to growing our state economies. Policymakers in Wisconsin have focused on cutting taxes, especially for corporations and the wealthiest, sharply reducing state spending on K-12 education and the university system, and limiting tax credits and other services that give a boost to struggling families. In contrast, policymakers in Minnesota have targeted the state’s highest earners for an increase in income taxes, kept education spending on an even keel during the recession, and expanded Medicaid.

The different approaches to economic development amount to a type of experiment, one that policymakers from other states will be watching with a close eye. Read more

Minimum Wage Increase Enjoys Broad Public Support

Monday, November 11, 2013 at 7:29 PM by

Gallup poll conducted last week found strong public support for boosting the minimum wage (now $7.25/hr.) to $9.00 per hour.  That change was supported by 76% of Americans, with only 22% opposed.   Here are a few of the other highlights from the national survey of 1,040 adults:

  • The support was solid across the political spectrum – with the backing of 58% of Republicans, 76% of Independents, and 91 % of Democrats. 
  • Support wasn’t quite as strong for indexing the minimum wage for inflation (after raising it to $9), yet that was endorsed by 68% of adults and opposed by 29%.
  • Public support for an increase to $9.00 was up 5 percentage points since early March, when 71% were in favor and 27% against the proposal.

The national poll was conducted by Gallup last week at about the same time that 61% of New Jersey voters supported an amendment to that state’s constitution to raise the minimum wage $1 to $8.25 and index it for inflation (even as they reelected Governor Christie, who had opposed that measure).   Read more

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Legislature Approves Unfunded Transitional Jobs Bill

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 6:31 PM by

New LFB Paper Illustrates Why Tapping TANF Funding Appears Unlikely

The Assembly overwhelmingly approved a bill today that we strongly support, because it is aimed at expanding a program to provide on-the-job training to low-income people.  The only catch is that it isn’t funded, and the prospects for funding it don’t look promising anytime soon.   

The bill in question is SB 333, which is part of the package of workforce training bills proposed by the Governor in late September.    It authorizes expansion of the Transitional Jobs program, which now only operates in Milwaukee.  Transitional Jobs was first implemented several years ago as a pilot program, with funding from the federal Recovery Act.   Although that came to an end, the 2013-15 biennial budget bill created a new version of it in Milwaukee, which is now called the Transform Milwaukee Jobs Program.  It was allocated $9.9 million from the federal welfare reform block grant known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).    Read more

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Bill to Expand Transitional Jobs Program Gets Two Hearings This Week

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 5:55 PM by

Could Lack of New Funding Divert Resources from the Current Milwaukee Program? 

We were very pleased to learn a couple of weeks ago that the package of workforce training bills being proposed by the Governor includes one to expand the Transitional Jobs program, which now only operates in Milwaukee.  Our enthusiasm was tempered when we realized that the bill isn’t funded.   Apparently, the idea is to use existing funding to expand the program, but a funding source hasn’t been identified.   

Transitional Jobs programs provide on-the-job training to low-income people.   Wisconsin’s Transitional Jobs program was first implemented several years ago as a pilot program, with funding from the federal Recovery Act.   Although that came to an end, the 2013-15 biennial budget bill created a new version of it in Milwaukee, which is now called  the Transform Milwaukee Jobs Program.  It was allocated $9.9 million from the federal welfare reform block grant known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).    Read more

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