1. Stop suspending driver’s licenses for not paying fines that are unrelated to driving.In addition to removing barriers to entering the work force, Wisconsin should also be doing more to allow people with jobs to make a good enough wage to make a job worthwhile. The Budget Project notes that Wisconsin’s minimum wage continues to be stuck at $7.25 while most of our neighboring states are $1-$2.40 an hour higher.
Not being allowed to drive is a major hurdle to getting and keeping a job, and the state should be working to make sure potential workers who haven’t engaged in illegal or unsafe driving can keep their driver’s licenses. Instead, Wisconsin courts suspend hundreds of thousands of licenses each year for reasons unrelated to driving, primarily nonpayment of fines. Of the nearly 418,000 suspensions in our state in 2013, 60%—or about 250,000 suspensions—were for failing to pay a debt, such as a municipal citation or a ticket for a low-level violation like having a burnt-out headlight. Each of those suspensions represents a potentially insurmountable hurdle for workers who need a valid driver’s license to get to work.
2. Expand eligibility and credit amounts for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The EITC increases the financial incentive to work for people who work at low and moderate wages, bringing more people into the workforce and increasing the number of hours that they work. But Wisconsin only offers the credit to workers with children, meaning that workers without dependent children have a harder time making work pay. Wisconsin is an outlier in that we are the only state that has an EITC that excludes workers without dependent children. Fixing that omission would provide a powerful incentive for more potential workers to enter the labor force. Increasing credit amounts for workers who are already eligible would also increase the incentive to work.
3. Improve access to child care.
Parents can’t go to work if they don’t have child care, but many jobs don’t pay enough to cover the cost of child care. The structure of Wisconsin’s child care assistance program presents an obstacle to these workers who are also seeking child care: state support for child care subsidies has dropped by $130 million over the last decade. With reimbursement rates frozen for most of that time period, many child care providers have dropped out of the assistance program, making it more difficult for families to find child care. To make sure that parents can get the child care they need in order to go to work, Wisconsin needs to make long-overdue investments in its child care assistance program.
4. Make sure child care assistance fits workers’ schedules.
Many workers who hold low-wage jobs work erratic hours or are not assigned a work schedule far in advance. The structure of Wisconsin’s child care assistance program presents obstacles for these workers who are also seeking child care: recently-adopted guidelines for child care assistance require that parents be prepared to provide up to four weeks of their schedule ahead of time. According to COWS:“Given the erratic scheduling practices used by many low-wage employers, this requirement makes child care subsidies nearly impossible to secure. Uncertain hours, which are unavailable for some workers, keep many low-wage workers from being eligible. They are committed to work, but their employer designs work in a way that they cannot secure these supports. This means that it is essentially the structure of the job that is keeping an otherwise eligible working family from desperately needed support.”
And Wisconsin doesn't just lag for the minimum wage, but also the "family supporting" wage. The most recent “gold standard” Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (QCEW) showed that Wisconsin still has the lowest weekly manufacturing wage in the Midwest.
Along those lines, I noticed that a free flyer newspaper this week that had an ad indicating that Teel Plastics in Baraboo was looking for workers. Why did that grab my eye? Because look who was just hired as the Chairman of the Board of the wage-suppressors at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce!
Teel Plastics, Inc. Chairman & CEO Jay L. Smith was elected Chairman of the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) Board of Directors on Friday. Smith will serve a two-year term as Chairman of WMC, the state chamber of commerce and manufacturers’ association. Smith served as Vice Chairman of the WMC Board for the last two years.Huh, and this business leader’s company is having a problem finding workers? Can’t figure out why that might be happening in this low-wage state.
But is raising wages or improving child care or reforming criminal justice penalties part of the “hate the poor” special session that had its first public hearing on Wednesday? OF COURSE NOT. It’s just race-baiting crap that doesn’t do anything to pull people out of poverty or improve quality of life in such a way that more people want to come to work in Wisconsin.
It’s well past time to have more people in charge of this state that care more for people that struggle to make it instead of pandering to the dead-end trash that don't want to get better, but would rather kick down at the few people below them.