Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Reflections on the Effect of Wisconsin Policy Choices on Low-wage Workers

Workers in Wisconsin and across the U.S. are still struggling because of a relatively weak labor market. That is especially challenging for low-wage workers who must cope with the declining value of the minimum wage, reductions in employer benefits like health care, and growing inequality.  An interactive database posted online Friday by helps illustrate the wage decline for Wisconsin’s lower income workers.

Those challenges are exacerbated by budget decisions made by Wisconsin lawmakers. A new Wisconsin Budget Project issue brief examines how the how state budget choices are affecting low-wage workers in Wisconsin. It focuses primarily on the effects of the new budget bill, but also examines a few instances of how that bill continues or compounds the challenges for low-wage workers caused by the 2011-13 budget.

Some of the major effects include the following policy choices relating to health insurance, child care, taxes and unemployment insurance:
  • Making health insurance and health care much more expensive for many parents now in BadgerCare;
  • Charging premiums for Transitional Medicaid (if federal officials waive conflicting federal statutes);
  • Additional cuts in funding for early education, which make child care less affordable and harder to find;
  • Not rolling back the tax increases on low-income households that were included in the last budget, and leaving low-wage workers out of the recent income tax cut; and
  • Tightening eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits for jobless workers.
Read the full issue brief, "Wisconsin Budget Compounds the Economic Challenges for Low-Wage Workers," for more regarding how the hurdles faced by low-income workers are compounded by budget decisions made by state lawmakers.

Jon Peacock

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