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Abbott: Minimum Wage

All the recent talk from our political leaders about making Vermont affordable reminds me of the expression "Moonlight in Vermont, or starve."

Because Vermont is an economically challenging place to live, many Vermonters work hectic schedules juggling several jobs at once.

Minimum wage in Vermont is currently ten fifty an hour, or four hundred and twenty dollars per week, which comes to just under twenty two thousand a year. This puts a single parent with two children below the federal poverty guidelines and makes them eligible for Three squares Vermont, for Medicaid, and for other social safety net programs.

The result is that employers who are paying the minimum wage are being subsidized by us taxpayers. Their workers can only make ends meet and keep working for them if we, the taxpayers, provide many dollars in assistance. And we, the taxpayers, are spending a lot more on these programs than simply the difference between ten fifty and fifteen dollars an hour.

I’m a small business owner myself, and I understand the challenges of employment and the pricing of a product or service. In a recent media discussion about poverty in Vermont and various possible policy solutions, one small business owner called in to say he pays his employees enough so they can afford to buy his product. As a small business owner, he said, "the taxes are not the main challenge to my business success. The main challenge is having enough customers."

My personal wish is to live in a state that has a good social safety net and takes care of people who need help. And I’m willing to pay more in taxes to insure that my neighbors have decent housing and adequate medical care, enough to eat, good schools, and so on.

I’d rather not subsidize wealthy Corporations that don't pay their employees a living wage. To my way of thinking, they’re the real "freeloaders." They have plenty of money - especially now that the tax laws have been rewritten in their favor. So I think it’s high time they paid their own way.

The most direct and effective way to make Vermont more affordable is to raise the minimum wage to $15 over the next couple of years and pay our workers at a level that allows them to participate fully in our economy.

Martha Abbott is a business owner, tax preparer, Treasurer of the Vermont Progressive Party and lifelong political activist. She lives in Underhill with her spouse.
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