Three senators want to help the working class - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Three senators want to help the working class

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By: Jenn Hatcher

Thursday, state Senators Nordquist, Dubas and Conrad discussed legislation that would increase the state's minimum wage and earned income tax credit (EITC) and would implement paid sick and family leave.

Nebraska's household median income has declined by five percent over the last decade.  Nordquist's bill, LB 943, would phase-in an increase in the state's minimum wage to $9.00 per hour over a three-year period.

"While Nebraskans place a significant value on hard work, the economy has changed in a way that has left too many Nebraska families behind," said Nordquist.  "Raising the minimum wage has the potential to benefit employees, employers and our state's economy and is a crucial part of rebuilding Nebraska's middle class."

In 2012, Nebraska ranked 13th in the country for the highest percent of all hourly workers who were making at or below minimum wage.  Twenty one states, including neighboring states of Colorado and Missouri, have minimum wages above the federal minimum of $7.25.

"Too many Nebraska families are faced with the impossible choice between their economic security and what is best for their families.  Nebraska has an opportunity to be a leader in supporting our hard working families.  I will introduce legislation that will provide six weeks paid family medical leave for all Nebraska workers who are faced with the difficulty of caring for a sick or dying family member, or the joy of staying home after the blessing of a new child," Dubas said. 

Roughly 43 percent of Nebraskans lack some sort of sick leave.  Conrad is considering a bill that would provide paid sick leave for certain employees.

"This idea levels the playing field and recognizes that employees who are sick or who need to attend to a sick family member will receive a modest amount of paid sick leave.  This is an important policy to promote wellness and support families."

Conrad introduced legislation that would increase Nebraska's EITC from 10 to 13 percent.  The EITC reduces the tax bill of working families and provides a refund to those who are in the lowest income ranges.

"The EITC is one of the most successful and widely supported anti-poverty measures ever developed to boost take home pay for working families.  A moderate expansion of the EITC in Nebraska would provide targeted tax relief for those who need it most and ensure our system is in line with neighboring states," Conrad said.  

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