Raising Hoosier incomes starts with a fair wage

By Indiana State Senator Richard D. Young Jr. (D-Milltown)
Word Count: 481

This year, lawmakers proved that we can work together to accomplish important goals. Take a proposal I spearheaded to update outdated regulations and allow the production of industrial hemp.  Industrial hemp can be used to produce paper, fuel, textiles, construction materials and some medicines. The new law has already allowed the Indiana Seed Commissioner to seek necessary federal approval to enable Indiana universities to conduct research on this valuable crop. By taking this step, we gave Hoosier farmers a chance to compete in a new market and created an opportunity for Hoosier entrepreneurs to start businesses and create jobs.

This same mentality should be used to address a critical issue facing Hoosiers. It’s alarming to note that Hoosier households earned more in 2004 than in 2012. Indiana ranks 40th among all states for inflation-adjusted earned income, and in some areas, average incomes equal those from the 1960s. In 2013, Indiana ranked seventh in most per-capita bankruptcy filings, and nearly a quarter of children live in poverty. These children sit next to ours in classrooms, they’re our neighbors, they live down the street and attend the same church. While the economy is improving, many Hoosiers are being left behind.

There’s no doubt these enormous problems interconnect with others, and cannot be corrected overnight. It will take the dedication of the legislature, a willingness to apply as many approaches as necessary, and a commitment to doing what’s best for Hoosier families and businesses. So what can we do now to put more money in the pockets of working families? We can start by raising the minimum wage.

Raising the minimum wage is a step toward ensuring working Hoosiers can lift themselves out of poverty. A recent study found that hiking the minimum wage to $10.10 would positively impact nearly 650,000 Hoosier workers. Cutting against common perception, 87 percent of Indiana workers positively affected by an increase in the minimum wage are 20 years of age or older, 56 percent are women and more than 175,000 workers with children would benefit. That’s a total of nearly 300,000 Hoosier children living in more economically stable homes.

Workers making more than the minimum wage would see their incomes rise to remain competitive in the labor market. A reduction in the costs associated with employee turnover and retraining a workforce in constant flux would allow Hoosier businesses – the engine that drives our economy – to offset higher payrolls.

Raising the minimum wage is only a small step toward helping families help themselves and lifting children out of poverty. But it is a positive step. And if we have the tools to combat these issues, we owe it to Hoosier families to use them. I supported a proposal to raise the minimum wage that was blocked during the 2014 session. However, I will continue to fight for this proposal and other common sense approaches that aid working families.

As always, I would like to hear your thoughts and ideas on the issues that matter most to you. Please contact me at (800) 382-9467 or s47@iga.in.gov.