As I travel, I hear many stories from working families who are struggling to make ends meet. Low-wage workers fall further and further behind and are more dependent on the state’s cash-strapped social safety net programs. There is a step the state can take that would make an immediate impact: We could raise the minimum wage.
In 1913, Wisconsin became one of the first states to enact a minimum wage law. The purpose was to help lift workers out of poverty and to stimulate the economy. Unfortunately, since that time, increases to the minimum wage have not kept pace with the rising cost of living. Since the 1970s, the real value of the minimum wage has been plummeting. The real-life consequences affect many of our hardworking neighbors.
According to the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, the typical household in Wisconsin earned $4,500 less in 2012 than in 2008. The council also reported the poverty rate in Wisconsin has increased, with one out of six children now living in poverty. In 2012, a total of 737,000 Wisconsinites lived in poverty. As the council noted, “If poverty were a city, it would be Wisconsin’s largest city.”