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Washington-Chittenden: Waterbury, Bolton, Huntington & Buels Gore

The White House Summit on Working Families

June 21, 2014

reptomstevens

White House Summit InviteI was nominated by my friends at Vermont Voices for Children and the Vermont Commission on Women to attend this event. I was lucky to be invited, and I am proud to represent Vermont, and the House of Representatives, and my committee at this event. This commentary appeared today in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus, and may appear in other newspapers this week.

In today’s world of paralyzed politics, at least on the national level, it seems impossible that any series of policies would be supported by 86 percent of voters — including 96 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of independents — doesn’t it?

But when it comes to workplace policies like paid family leave and earned sick days, the vast majority of Americans — across party lines and across demographics — agree we need laws to keep working families economically secure and help balance the demands of work and family. And why not? It has been shown that without a doubt, these policies strengthen families, protect public health and boost the economy.

My work, and the work of my committee and of many advocates across the state of Vermont, focused on these very issues this past biennium. The struggles we had in passing legislation mirrored a certain status quo that developed over the past generation, where workers were disposable, real wages declined, and the effects of the growing service economy were negatively oriented away from the health and well-being of the families who were stuck in these low-wage jobs. And the success we found on issues like equal pay, quality child and home health care, and minimum wage made us all proud that we were providing real relief for working Vermonters. Read more

State House 2014

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The Golden Dome in the Early Morning
The Golden Dome

The Golden Dome in Early Morning

Abe

Bust of Abraham Lincoln, Hall of Quotations

Sexual Assault Awareness Proclamation

Governor Shumlin signing a proclamation commemorating Sexual Assault and Harassment Awareness Month

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Can You Live on $8.73 an Hour? Supporting an Increase in the Minimum Wage

April 15, 2014

reptomstevens

Can you live on $8.73 an hour? Especially if you are not allowed to work 40 hours at that rate, with no job-related benefits? That is the current minimum wage, and on April 9, the House passed H.552, which proposes to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in January 2015. $10.10 is the current level proposed by legislation at the federal level, but it, and a proposal by Governor Shumlin, is to phase this in over three years.

The stark reality is that you cannot live easily on $8.73 an hour, especially if you have children. You will need SNAP benefits (federal food stamps, which are constantly threatened by budget cuts), child care subsidies, heating assistance and the earned income tax credit. The federal and state governments do provide relief through these types of programs, but no one who receives them will tell you that they add up to a livable wage.

My committee, the General, Housing and Military Affairs committee, passed this bill out of committee on a 6-2 vote, and we to implement the rise in the minimum wage in one year for a number of reasons. First, our current minimum wage has an inflation rise built into it, and so it rises every year at a rate between 5% and, on the lower side, the rate of inflation. Since it went into effect, inflation has been less than 5% every year. Nevertheless, if we did nothing with the minimum wage, it would be about $9.35 in 2017, meaning that the minimum wage increase would be a net of 75 cents over three years for Vermonters. (It would be larger in parts of the country where they adhere to the federal minimum, $7.25.) Conversely, a wage of $10.10 raised in 2015 but in effect in 2017, when adjusted for inflation, has a buying power of about $9.60 in 2015 dollars, meaning that the net effect is a 25 cent raise over three years. We chose to propose raising the minimum wage in 2015 because it would represent real dollars in real time. Read more

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