Hats off to Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, who announced an impressive plan to invest in strengthening the state’s education system, including not only the K-12 and higher education systems, but early education as well. The Governor recommends that $350 million be targeted over four years to expand and improve the state’s early education and care system. This investment would eliminate the state’s waiting list of nearly 30,000 children who need but cannot currently access child care assistance, expand the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to help early educators and providers offer higher-quality experiences to children and families, increase educational programs and supports for parents and family members, and strengthen efforts to provide comprehensive support to children and families. In addition, new school finance funding would be used to incentivize school districts to offer prekindergarten for four-year-olds.
In order to raise the revenue necessary to support these fundamental education initiatives, Governor Patrick, in his state of the state address, proposed to increase the state income tax by one percent, to 6.25 percent. He also proposed to double personal exemptions and eliminate certain itemized deductions in an attempt to distribute the burden of the tax increase based on ability to pay. Read more »
It all started off with the 8th Circuit upholding a South Dakota law that requires doctors to tell a woman seeking an abortion that she would be subjected to “increased risk of suicide ideation or suicide” if she had an abortion. The court seemed unconcerned with the fact that a woman would likely interpret the disclosure as telling her that having an abortion would cause her to be at an increased risk of suicide (a link the scientific studies do not support). Making constrained arguments about relative risk and scientific “uncertainty,” the court rubberstamped a misleading disclosure that will only confuse women in South Dakota seeking abortion care. Decision outcome: it’s ok to mislead women? Check.
Second, a district court in Colorado temporarily stopped the health care law’s contraceptive coverage requirement from taking effect for a for-profit CO company, which specializes in heating and cooling systems, based on the claim that requiring coverage of birth control in a health insurance plan violated the company’s religious freedom. After the judge determined that questions like whether a for profitHVAC company can exercisereligion “merit more deliberate investigation,” the court then decided that the government had failed to show it had a compelling interest in providing women access to contraceptive coverage and that there were less restrictive means for doing so. Decision outcome: it’s ok for your boss to make health care decisions for you? Check. Read more »
Apparently we have to keep fighting for basic health care. On Friday the Colorado state legislature took up a measure that would have a lasting impact on women’s access to health services, such as contraception.
The Colorado Senate Memorial 12-003 calls upon Congress to enact the Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act of 2011. This extreme bill introduced in Congress gives virtually limitless and unprecedented license to any employer or insurance plan, religious or not, to exclude coverage of any health service, no matter how essential, as required by the federal health care law.
In fact, this legislation was recently repackaged as the Blunt Amendment and attached to a routine transportation bill. Fortunately, this extreme measure was voted down by the U.S. Senate. As an aside, one of the Republican Senators who voted for the Blunt Amendment—Senator Murkowski—realized, after the vote, the extreme nature of the Blunt Amendment and now says she regrets her vote. Read more »
Here’s a little bit of good news for the new year: more than one million low-wage workers got a raise on January 1, when the minimum wage increased in the eight states that index their minimum wage for inflation. In each of these states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington), women make up a majority of the workers who will see their paychecks increase this month. An adjustment for inflation also increased the minimum wage in San Francisco to $10.24 per hour, making it the first large city in the country to require hourly pay above $10.
However, these jurisdictions represent the exception rather than the rule. While another 10 states, the District of Columbia, and some other localities have minimum wages that are set higher than the federal minimum wage, most of their minimum wage rates are fixed and don’t keep pace with inflation. The minimum wage is still below $9.00 an hour in every state but Washington (where it just rose to $9.04/hour). Worst of all, in more than half the states, the minimum wage remains at the federal level, which is just $7.25 an hour.
As the New York Times editorial page highlighted, it’s past time for the federal government to set a higher standard for the states. A woman working full time, year round at the current federal minimum wage will earn just $14,500 annually – that’s more than $3,000 below the federal poverty line for a mother with two children. The value of the federal minimum wage has declined over time; if it had kept pace with inflation since 1968 (when the wage was at its highest mark), it would now be $10.39 per hour. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is lower still; since 1991, it has been set at just $2.13 an hour, providing an annual base wage of only $4,260 for tipped employees working full time, year round. Read more »