The United States created the strongest economy in the world by building a large middle class. Unfortunately, it has become more difficult since the Great Recession for lower- and middle-income Iowans to climb the ladder to prosperity. We’ve seen an uneven economic recovery that has increased the gap between the very well off and just about everyone else, according to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.
Though the worst of the recession is over, many of our families, friends, and neighbors continue to struggle. For example, right here in America’s heartland, one in eight Iowa families experienced “food insecurity” last year.
This session, we can take steps to turn that trend around and boost the incomes of Iowa’s families by:
1. Raising the minimum wage. The current minimum wage is $7.25/hour. For a fulltime worker, that amounts to only $15,000/year—hardly enough to support one person, let alone a family. We haven’t raised the minimum wage in seven years. It’s time these hardworking Iowans got a little more for their labor.
2. Providing affordable workforce training at our community colleges so that Iowans can get the skills they need to move up to higher wages and local businesses can get the trained workers they need to grow. Last year, with bipartisan support, we expanded a successful skills training effort to every community college in the state. I will continue to work to ensure Iowans can take advantage of these new opportunities to train for better-paying jobs.
3. Expanding the Iowa Child Care Tax Credit. A parent who gets a job at $12/hour but has to pay $5 or $6/hour for child care isn’t getting ahead very fast. Increasing the child care tax credit will leave more of that parent’s paycheck to buy food, pay the rent, and provide for the kids’ education.
This is a legislative column by Senator Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames), who represents Ames and surrounding areas. For newsletters, photos, and further information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/quirmbach.
To contact Senator Quirmbach, call him at home at 515-292-8984 or email him at email@example.com.
Senator Quirmbach is the Chair of the Senate Education Committee. He also serves on the Human Resources, Judiciary, Local Government, and Ways & Means Committees and on the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. In addition, he represents the Senate on the College Student Aid Commission and the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Commission.