Op-Ed: Vermonters want a minimum wage increase

Vermonters have spoken. A recent poll commissioned by Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS showed a majority of Vermonters favor going to a $15 minimum wage, and over 80 percent support raising it above the current level.

In all the chaos of the special session and getting a budget in place before July 1, the governor’s 13 vetoes at the end of the regular legislative session didn’t get much attention. Nevertheless it’s clear that his veto of the Legislature’s bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 is out of step with most Vermonters.

The minimum wage has not kept up with rising costs and buys less housing, less child care, and less health care than it used to. It falls short of the Vermont livable wage determined by the Joint Fiscal Office, and it’s not getting any closer.

Vermonters know this and want to make a change. And it’s not just here: every time voters have had the choice – in Maine, Arizona, Washington, and Colorado – they have voted to raise the minimum wage.

In our report, “A Framework for Progress,” Public Assets calls for all Vermonters to have a livable income – that is, sufficient income to meet their family’s basic needs – through a combination of increasing the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Based on research from the Political Economy Research Institute, the idea is that these policies together would ensure that employers and government are both doing their part to support working families.

The governor took one big step in the right direction this year. As part of their income tax reform plan this year, the administration recommended an increase in the EITC. The legislature agreed and increased the EITC from 32 percent to 36 percent of the federal credit effective for the 2018 tax year. It’s a good change that had bipartisan support. Now we just need to tackle the wage side – by increasing the minimum wage to a livable wage as soon as possible.

People working full time shouldn’t have to worry about having enough to support their families. Vermonters know they’re due for a raise, and the governor can make that happen.

Written by Stephanie Yu, Public Assets Institute in Montpelier, Vt.

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