It is time to end poverty in Minnesota. It’s not okay for working people to struggle to pay for necessities. It is not acceptable for Minnesotans to be homeless. Or hungry. Consequently, Senator Marty introduced Senate File 1440, which would:
- Establish a $17/hour minimum wage through a gradual five-year phase-in, ($15/hour for small employers) moving Minnesota workers closer to a living wage.
- More than double Minnesota’s Working Family Tax Credit. Even with a $17/hour wage many workers will not be able to pay for basic needs, so the legislation would set the Working Family Credit at 75% of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. This provides a boost of between $1000 and $3000 per year for many low-income workers, depending on income and family size. Tax credits for working Minnesotans living in poverty have been an extremely popular and effective tool at reducing poverty.
- Eliminate the waiting list for the sliding fee Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and raise the reimbursement level to the 75th percentile of local childcare provider rates (currently at the 25th percentile), so that parents can find quality, affordable childcare in their community, childcare workers can earn a decent wage, and providers can afford additional training in child development.
- Provide a $200/month increase in the MN Family Investment Program (MFIP) grants. When parents are unable to work, Minnesotans have recognized the importance of providing financial support to help them survive. We know that children whose families cannot afford housing and food are robbed of their potential—we can measure how it inhibits their physical, mental, and emotional development. Unfortunately, financial assistance payments in Minnesota have only increased once since 1986. Inflation over those decades has taken its toll and those families are more stressed than ever. The proposed $200 per month increase would do much to stabilize the lives of these children.
- These investments in Minnesota families would be funded by closing the loophole in which high income earners are exempt from some federal social security taxes. Currently, the federal government collects 6.2% of earned income on all wages up to $142,800/year, but nothing on incomes above that level. Minnesota cannot change the federal social security law, but if the federal government is not going to collect this revenue from high income earners it is reasonable for the state to collect that revenue to pay for these investments in families. Under this provision, high income earners would pay the same percentage of their earned income in social security taxes that every other Minnesota worker pays.
Circumstances will always occur that bring people into poverty—if you lose your job, or your car breaks down, or you get hit with large medical bills, you may slip into poverty. When we talk about ending poverty, we cannot prevent people from falling into it, but we can help them move up and out of poverty quickly, so they are not trapped.
This legislation, in conjunction with excellent proposals from some other senators for earned safe and sick time and paid family & medical leave, would move Minnesotans out of poverty.
That, along with stronger collective bargaining rights for workers, and passage of the Minnesota Health Plan (or the proposed Medicare for All, nationally) would have a profound impact on families currently left behind by the economy.
For families who struggle to make ends meet, we are in an economic crisis. All of us lose when many of our neighbors are struggling. These changes are urgently needed.