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January 10, 2007

Kagen Calls for ‘Minimum Wage-Plus’ to Help Working Families

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Congressman Steve Kagen today said that raising the federal minimum wage should be one component of a comprehensive initiative to help working Americans lift themselves out of poverty and begin building a better future for their families.

“Working together, we will build a better future for everyone, everywhere in these United States. We need a minimum wage-plus plan,” Dr. Kagen said. “Let’s combine a higher minimum wage with a more effective effort to make college more affordable for middle-class families and the Earned Income Tax Credit, more accessible for low-income workers.” Dr. Kagen voted today to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour, which would directly benefit as many as 15 million working Americans.

But the Wisconsin lawmaker called for additional measures such as restoring cuts made by the last Congress in federal Pell Grants and other proven higher education assistance, as well as implementation of a public awareness campaign to make low- and middle-income families aware of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, a pro-work, pro-family credit that can help bring average refunds of $2,000 to eligible taxpayers.

Dr. Kagen said a combination of the increased minimum wage and the other measures would be a crucial step toward helping to lift an estimated 15 million — about 11 percent of the nation’s work force — out of the poverty that marks day-to-day life for the working poor.

“It makes moral and fiscal sense to help families support themselves and reduce the taxpayer burden for food stamps and other vital public assistance programs,” Dr. Kagen said.

The national median hourly wage has dropped two percent in the past three years, Dr. Kagen said, despite the fact that worker productivity has risen steadily over the same period.

“People who are working hard and playing by the rules are producing more but earning less with fewer available options to further their education or qualify for tax breaks,” Dr. Kagen said. “That’s bad for business and bad for our communities.”

Curtis Ellis
202 225-5665 (office)