Monday, January 31, 2011

Jobs! Jobs! Culture Wars?

This last campaign season was all about jobs and the economy. This legislative session? Not so much. As I've been following the introduced bills, I'm struck by the number that address culture wars and seek to appease the Republican base with little or no consideration of the cost or economic impact of such legislation.

I came across yet another example of this today in H.F. 7.  H.F. 7 is actually pretty interesting in content, although the text is rather dry. Basically, it addresses the repeal of a number of local government mandates. There's a lot of stuff buried in there. Much of it is expected (though some is controversial) and previously publicized targets for repeal such as mandates that address funds to be used for staff development in public schools, requirements that schools reach contract agreements by January 15 or pay a penalty, municipality reporting requirements, requirements that benefits agreed to through collective bargaining need approval of employee representative in order to be reduced, etc.

But tucked away in the midst of it all is a repeal of laws that established standards to eliminate sex based pay disparities among public employees. They are seeking to repeal Minnesota's Local Government Pay Equity Act (LGPEA) which was adopted in 1991 in order to guarantee equal pay for equal work regardless of gender. Some argue that such laws are outdated and no longer needed. However, the Pay Equity Coalition of Minnesota rightly points out that the Minnesota Management & Budget Department's January 2011 report notes pay raises given in order to eliminate disparities in wages across the state increased women's pay from $16.27/hr to $17.86/hr. Based on a 40 hour work week, by my calculations that amounts to an additional $63.60 every week or $3307.20 every year.

How exactly does stripping women's right to equal pay create jobs or strengthen our economy?

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