Local minimum wage laws prove effective
With Congress at a standstill, states, cities and counties are taking matters into their own hands with the minimum wage. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have established a higher minimum wage than the federal $7.25 per hour, and more than 120 cities and counties across the nation have followed suit — often requiring city service contractors to be paid between $12 and $15 per hour. According to UC Berkeley economist Michael Reich, studies in these localities indicate that workers’ wages and access to health care has increased, while employment rates have remained stable. That’s because businesses in these cities and counties successfully absorbed increased labor costs through savings from reduced worker turnover and improved efficiency. Researchers also found that a 10 percent minimum wage increase adds 0.7 cents on the dollar to restaurant prices — a small price to pay for lifting workers and their families out of poverty.
Louisiana is one of five states without its own minimum wage law, and the state also bans local governments from establishing their own minimum wage. But that hasn’t stopped city councils from New Orleans to Monroe from passing ordinances asking the state to raise minimum wage laws. State Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, filed House Bill 644 to remove this prohibition. Across the state, a solid majority of Louisianans – 73 percent – support a state minimum wage of at least $8.50 an hour that would keep pace with the cost of living. You can read more about the poll results and the impacts of a higher Louisiana minimum wage in LBP’s report “Louisiana Needs a Higher Wage.”
Gov. Jindal pledges $6.1 million for community and technical colleges
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration pledged an extra $6.1 million for the state’s community and technical colleges during Monday’s Senate Finance Committee meeting. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said the funding will target schools whose enrollment has outpaced state funding, including Baton Rouge Community College, Delgado Community College and Bossier Parish Community College. The extra funds are part of the governor’s higher education package, which is largely funded by $88 million in increased tuition. Another $40 million to be used for training in high-demand fields would simply replace a $40 million appropriation for “operations and maintenance support” that is in the current-year budget. Taking away these two things leaves about $14 million in actual new financing for the $2.6 billion enterprise that is higher education in Louisiana.
Legislators criticize governor’s prison budget
The Advocate reports that members of the House Appropriations Committee were displeased with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed prison budget, which slashed funding for supplies (plugging those savings into salaries and benefits) and left no money for day-to-day repairs. Lawmakers were also frustrated with the governor’s attempt to use 2008 hurricane relief dollars to pay for Corrections Department employees’ increased retirement expenses. The administration has told lawmakers for years that it spent all hurricane relief dollars. Conservative “fiscal hawks,” meanwhile, continue to gripe that the budget uses one-time dollars to finance recurring expenses – even though administration officials have insisted that’s not the case. In addition to lambasting Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc, the committee also criticized long lines for a driver’s licenses due to staff reductions in the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the abrupt closure of a Baton Rouge area juvenile prison.
United Against Domestic Violence Rally tomorrow
The United Way of Southeast Louisiana is hosting a rally at the State Capitol tomorrow to show support for domestic violence legislation that has proven to reduce the rate of domestic violence deaths by firearms. Louisiana consistently leads the nation in domestic homicides and has done so since 1997. Moreover, Louisiana has a higher than average rate of multiple death domestic violence incidents. Advocates are asked to join the United Way on 9 a.m., March 26 to take a stand at the State Capitol, where the House of Representatives’ Administration of Criminal Justice Committee plans to hear testimony on House Bill 747, House Bill 750 and House Bill 753, by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans.