A Look at the President's Proposals to Increase the Minimum Wage and Universal Pre-K


Washington is the only state with a minimum wage of $9. Seven other states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage of $8 or more. So for most states it would mean at least a $1 increase per hour for all workers at the lowest level of the pay scale.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union, said through spokesperson Alex Conant that he "supports having a minimum wage and recognizes that the proper rate will vary from state to state, but he doesn't think we should raise the federal one as the president proposed."

But proponents of the increase say that more money in the pockets of those who need it will boost the economy, not stall it.

Jack Temple, a policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project (which works to increase the minimum wage), says polling and research show the opposite of what Boehner said is true and "raising the minimum wage is a key part of the economic recovery. "

"You can't accelerate the economic recovery without making sure everyone on the wage scale advances," Temple said. "Raising the minimum wage immediately boosts the wages at the bottom of the wage scale and it's smart policy at this point in the recovery. It helps the lowest paid workers make ends meet, but most importantly it also boosts consumer spending...raising the minimum wage means more money in the pockets of workers."

Temple says this means "it will have a significant stimulus on the economy."

And Temple points out it's good politics too.

A Public Religion Research Institute survey from September 2011 showed 67 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour with indexing, including 52 percent of Republicans.

Despite divided government, Temple also thinks it can pass because of the history of the minimum wage. "In terms of legislative prospects, the last two minimum wage increases were under the Bush administration in 2007 and the time before that it was proposed by President Clinton and passed under a Republican controlled congress in 1996," Temple said. "Its prospects are good, not just on its merits, but what history shows of it passing with bipartisan support."

Universal Pre-Kindergarten

The president travels to an early childhood learning center Thursday in Decatur, Ga., to drum up support for pre-kindergarten education for all, but opponents say it's too expensive to make it a quality education for every four year old and most attend anyway. Proponents say it's absolutely critical.

The Center for American Progress proposed its own education proposal earlier this month, which included universal pre-kindergarten for three and four year olds. It's slightly different from what the president proposed, but a likely roadmap for legislation.

Melissa Lazarin, the education policy director for the Center for American Progress said it is the "single most important investment" that can be made in education reform and "every dollar we invest we get back." Low-income children, she said, have the most to gain.

She stressed, though, that this is just one piece of the puzzle of education reform and it needs to be a federal and state partnership (they would split the cost as well) and a "comprehensive approach" that needs to be "followed up by continued investment and reforms to K through 12. It's not just a tack-on and separate thing.".

Lazarin too thinks it can get bipartisan support in Congress because there is bipartisan support at the state level.

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