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Labor Report

CapitolPA GOP Continues Minimum Wage Opposition, Budget Nightmares

If you were hoping, like I was, that my proposal to finally and belatedly increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 would be included in the Republican budget the governor ultimately vetoed this week, count us frustrated together.

The Republicans steamrolled a $30.2 billion plan that did next to nothing to alleviate the pain caused by four years of sham Corbett fiscal policy. Truth be told, the Republican blueprint was too much like the past administration – the very thing voters consciously said they didn’t want when they elected Tom Wolf as their governor.

House Bill 1192 included no minimum wage increase. It also failed homeowners by not delivering property tax reform, and it favored shale drillers by giving them another free get-the-gas-out-without-paying-taxes card.

An extraction tax will help to restore the draconian education cuts made between 2011 and 2014. The GOP’s insistence to stonewall this broadly accepted idea would have cost school districts millions of dollars compared to the governor’s plan. So, it’s good that Gov. Wolf vetoed the entire bill.

Think this not-my-problem mentality is something Democrats are just being partisan about? Respectfully, I disagree, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review provides more evidence.

“A Tribune-Review sampling of 58 school districts in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties found that 32 raised property taxes when setting recent budgets,” the newspaper wrote Wednesday. “Statewide, more than 70 percent of school districts warned they planned to raise tax rates in a survey released in June by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.”

Members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers came to the Capitol this week to press their case for school funding that better supports learning and students. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, we welcomed them with open arms because they have an obvious point.

SearchingUS Unemployment Dips

The nation’s unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in June. Hooray, right? Not so fast, perhaps.

While the 5.3 percent jobless number matches the April 2008 result, caution lurks within another number: the labor participation rate.

While nearly a quarter million jobs were added this past month, the participation rate fell to 62.6 percent, its lowest number since October 1977.

Monthly unemployment math continues to be a “buyer beware” scenario coming out of the recession. It’s hard to be completely positive about a number (unemployment rate) that used to be the main indicator of how we’re feeling about our economy. Hard because so many other different indicators continue to measure a level of discomfort and uncertainty that have not been there before.

One disturbing trend that I agree with is the surprising dwindling of the labor participation rate for women. Even’s minimum wage opponent Tim Worstall thinks this is disconcerting.

“Falling female participation is reversing the trend of a century or so. So it’s obviously something we should at least think about, if not worry about,” Worstall wrote today.

FlagHappy 4th of July!

Independence is a many-splendid thing. It freed us from British rule. It gives us the option to say what we want about a myriad of topics. It also gives us the opportunity to take it for granted.

As we head into the 4th of July holiday weekend, remember the apropos words of the man who started the minimum wage in this country:

“True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said during his Jan. 11, 1944, State of the Union address to Congress.

His thought is apropos to today because too many people are losing their economic security, and their independence.

Enjoy your holiday. Remember that independence has gotten us this far and we need to keep that spirit to keep us moving forward as the greatest country on earth.