Massachusetts is a high cost state. In Boston, a single parent of one child needs $49,848 a year to meet a basic family budget. The gap between low and high income families in Massachusetts has grown rapidly over the past 2 decades and is now the 11th largest in the country. I support the following initiatives because no hard-working family should be left behind in our economy.
Minimum wage legislation is necessary to ensure that low-wage workers receive a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. I have led two successful efforts to increase the minimum wage and I am currently fighting to raise the minimum wage rate from $8.00 to $8.50 per hour. Approximately three out of every five of the workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage are women and, contrary to many of the stereotypes associated with the minimum wage, three out of every four workers who would gain are adults age 20 or older. One out of three is the sole bread-winner for his or her family.
In addition, my bill would add a provision requiring that the minimum wage be annually adjusted for inflation. The cost of supporting a family increases each year – a month's rent, a gallon of gas, and a visit to the doctor all continue to grow. While many Massachusetts workers receive yearly pay raises to account for inflation (known as cost of living adjustments), minimum wage workers only receive pay raises when the legislature acts. As a result, inflation eats away at the purchasing power of the minimum wage every year it is not raised.
Ten states, including our neighbors in Vermont, have enacted minimum wage laws that annually index their minimum wages to inflation. A minimum wage that keeps pace with inflation is important because it ensure that our hard-working families are not left behind due to rising inflation. Indexing the minimum wage also establishes predictability for businesses by calling for annual, gradual increases rather than an abrupt, significant change.
Rising property taxes have increased the financial burden on homeowners across Massachusetts, but have been particularly difficult on low-income families. Proposition 2½ overrides may be effective in raising necessary funds for our cities and towns, but it is important to ensure that higher taxes do not push low-income families out of their homes and communities. That's why in 2007 I introduced H.3039, a bill that would allow municipalities (by local option) to exempt from Prop 2½ overrides properties that meet all of the following criteria:
In 1997, I wrote the law that created a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit for low wage workers that can reduce taxes. Several studies show that the EITC has been the most influential factor in increasing workforce participation among single mothers since the late 1990s.
I currently have a bill in the legislature that would increase the Massachusetts EITC from 15% to 30% of the federal EITC. I believe this is an important piece of legislation because our state and local taxes are largely regressive, meaning that all taxpayers in Massachusetts pay the same percentage in taxes regardless of their income. As a result, families with lower incomes pay a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes. The increased state EITC would help low income families meet this higher tax burden and keep pace with the cost of living in the Commonwealth.
Although the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees unpaid leave for childbirth, or to care for an ill family member, without pay most Americans cannot afford to take leave. Currently 120 countries including all industrialized countries, excluding the United States, have provisions for Paid Family Leave. I am in favor of Senate bill 1071 that would make Massachusetts workers eligible for 12 weeks of job-protected, paid leave to recover from serious illness or injury, to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or to care for a newborn, newly adopted, or foster child.
The unemployment insurance (UI) system in Massachusetts is in many ways, among the best in the nation, but I believe there are significant improvements that can be made. I have sponsored a bill that would make our system significantly fairer by extending UI to low-wage workers in non-standard jobs (such as temporary workers) who make up an increasingly large sector of the workforce. In recognition of the needs of many working families who struggle to balance work and the care of children, elderly parents and seriously ill family members, my bill would also reform the UI system to allow part time workers to qualify for UI benefits.