Trump Tax Plan Would Shortchange Indiana, Middle Class & Working Families (But Would Let Them Eat Cake)

Andrew Bradley, Senior Policy Analyst

The Trump Administration’s proposed tax plan would shortchange Indiana as a state, especially its middle-class and working families, while top earners would pocket a windfall. Although the administration hasn’t yet released full details of the plan, their public statements show that Indiana wouldn’t get its fair share of tax cuts, which would disproportionately benefit the nation’s very wealthiest and would likely be offset by damaging cuts to vital services.

A new analysis of the Trump tax plan from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy shows that Indiana would only get an 87% share of tax cuts relative to the state’s ratio of the U.S. population. This is the 23rd-smallest share among states. In part because the plan is aimed at high-income households and Indiana is a poorer state, no matter how you slice it, Indiana gets shortchanged compared to the average state by Trump’s plan.

Middle- and low-earning Hoosier families together really get the short end of the Trump tax stick, while the wealthiest earners profit big-league. Added together, the three low- and middle-earning quintiles (making up 60% of Indiana’s population) would only get 11.7% of the planned cuts, while the top 1% alone would take home 46.1% of the state’s share of tax cuts. The top 1%, all with incomes of at least $500,500 annually, would get an extra $95,940 each year (at $1,845, enough to pop the corks on three cases of Moët & Chandon champagne every single week). That $95,940 in additional cuts for the top 1% is more than nearly 80% of Hoosiers earn in a year. By contrast, the bottom 60% of middle- and working-class Hoosiers, all with annual incomes less than $64,000, would get just $410 per year on average (at $7.88 each week, barely enough for a small cake from Wal-Mart). So while the outcome of Trump’s tax plan would shower the wealthiest with luxurious benefits, it would lead to the destruction of the safety net that provides a measure of economic security for middle-class and working families. (But it would let them eat cake.)

The upside-down nature of the Trump tax scheme would only exacerbate Indiana’s regressive state tax structure, and would do nothing to improve inequality and stagnant incomes for the vast majority of Hoosier families. Indiana already makes the ‘Terrible 10’ list of most-regressive state & local tax systems that tax lower & middle-income residents at far higher rates than wealthy earners. Meanwhile, the same top 1% of earners who benefit most from Indiana’s regressive tax structure (and who would get the largest payoff from the Trump plan) already saw incomes grow by 86.9% since 1979. By contrast, the other 99% of earners - largely shortchanged by the Trump plan - saw their incomes grow by only 2.3% over that same time period. Even with outsized earnings at the top, Indiana had the fourth-lowest real median income growth since 2000.

Trump’s tax cuts wouldn’t come without strings attached. The tax proposal would cost at least $4.8 trillion over the next decade, and would mean higher government deficits, forcing a planned $1.85 trillion in devastating cuts in safety net programs, including $116 billion in cuts to SNAP alone. The puny share for middle & lower-earning Hoosiers would pale in comparison to gutting services that lift over a million Hoosiers out of poverty.

Hoosiers should call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to let Congress know that voting for Trump’s tax plan would be choosing benefits for the elite over standing with Indiana’s middle class & working families. Ask what they will do to make sure this damaging Trump tax plan never sees the light of day!
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

ACTION ALERT: Indy Council to Vote Monday to #RaiseTheWage to $13 for City-County Employees

ACTION ALERT: Indy Council to Vote Monday to #RaiseTheWage to $13 for City-County Employees
The final vote on Proposition 92 will be August 14th at 7 p.m.

This coming Monday the Indianapolis City-County Council will take a final vote on Proposition 92, which would raise the minimum wage for City-County employees to $13 per hour. The vote will come after Mayor Joe Hogsett presents his 2018 budget proposal.

Also, be sure to call Mayor Hogsett at (317) 327-3601 and ask him to make his support for Prop 92 loud and clear!

In May, IIWF Director Jessica Fraser said this at the unveiling of Prop 92:
Our research has shown us that in NO county in Indiana can even a single adult be self-sufficient on the minimum wage of $7.25.  For Marion County, the real self-sufficient wage is about $10 an hour for a single adult. Keep in mind that $10/hour is not a thriving wage-- it’s a making-ends-meet wage.  It is the first rung on the ladder of upward economic mobility. Proposal 92, which moves all city-county employees to a minimum of $13/ an hour goes a few rungs higher on that ladder and will help some city county employees not only get to economic self-sufficiency but to start on their own paths toward upward mobility and the middle class."

Supporters of Prop 92 should pack the house Monday night to show your support. If you can’t make the meeting in person, watch the Council LIVE to see if your Councilor votes the way you ask them to!

IIWF Director Jessica Fraser Speaks at Prop 92's Unveiling, May 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Indiana to Provide Free Community College Certificate Programs for In-Demand Fields

reposted with permission from the National Skills Coalition

By Rachel Hirsch, State Network Manager, National Skills Coalition, and
Andrew Bradley, Senior Policy Analyst, Indiana Institute for Working Families

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb recently signed into law Senate Bill 198 which provides free community college to students seeking a certificate in a “high value” field. This legislation, called the Workforce Ready Grant, is the product of a partnership between Governor Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, and was supported by the Indiana Skills2Compete Coalition. The Skills2Compete Coalition is a bipartisan coalition of state legislators, education policymakers, business, labor and community leaders, seeking to close the state’s skills gap. The state will provide $2 million a year for the grant program.

The Workforce Ready Grant will provide last-dollar tuition assistance to all students enrolled in a certificate program leading to a high value field, regardless of financial need. “High value” fields have been defined by the state as those that have “high job placement, high completion rate, high wage and high demand.” This grant builds on the energy of the state’s "You Can. Go Back." campaign, created last year, to encourage more adults to return and complete degrees and credentials through direct outreach, support from Indiana colleges, and $1,000 Adult Student Grants. Much of the Workforce Ready Grant’s intention is also to help adults return to school and gain new skills. Earning a certificate in an in-demand industry not only helps businesses to fill crucial human capital needs, but also allows adults in low-skilled, low-wage jobs to enter into career pathways leading to family-sustaining wages.
The Indiana Skills2Compete Coalition and National Skills Coalition are strong proponents of policies that help to expand equitable access to middle-skill credentials and careers. Establishing last- dollar scholarships for certificates in in-demand fields, as Indiana’s Workforce Ready Grant does, is one way that states can help adults with limited skills earn a postsecondary credential that leads to a quality middle-skill job while also ensuring that businesses have access to workers with the skills they require.
Middle-skill jobs, which require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree, make up the largest part of America’s and Indiana’s labor market. Many key industries in Indiana are currently unable to find enough sufficiently trained workers to fill these jobs. Like many states, Indiana faces a growing middle-skill gap. In 2015, 58% of jobs in Indiana were middle-skill, but only 47% of the state’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level.
As Indiana policymakers continue to consider ways to close the skill gap, we encourage them to take an expansive view of “high value” fields, so as not to unnecessarily limit students’ access to the diversity of community college pathways that lead to family-sustaining, middle-skill jobs. We also encourage them to look at policies that will leverage the Workforce Ready Grant by further expanding adults’ access to middle-skill training. These include increasing investments in proven programs, such the WorkINdiana adult education program that combines high school equivalency diplomas with industry-recognized credentials, as well as making new investments in job-driven adult literacy services that provide the first rung on the ladder to further middle-skill training. Indiana policymakers can also help adults pursue in-demand, middle-skill credentials by connecting them with services, such as childcare and transportation assistance, that make it easier to balance work and family responsibilities with their training.  
The Indiana Skills2Compete Coalition is made up of a bipartisan group of state legislators as well as education policymakers, business, labor, and community leaders that have come together with the aim of closing Indiana’s skills gap and serving as a resource for policymakers working toward that end. The Coalition uses research and data to promote public policies that will bring greater awareness to and help match the skills of Indiana’s workers with the demands its workforce.
*Numerous states have enacted legislation this year to help close the skills gap by expanding job-driven financial aid policies, increasing work-based learning opportunities (particularly apprenticeships), and increasing the use of workforce data. NSC's recent roundup outlines 2017’s key state legislative actions.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Indiana’s employers say they need increased skills, wages, & benefits to grow workforce

By Andrew Bradley

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce recently released its 10th annual Employer Survey, and the responses paint a telling picture of the Hoosier workforce and what’s needed to grow our economy. While the survey results reinforce a growing demand for skilled employees, they also show employers need to be able to increase wages and benefits to secure the workforce they want. Indiana’s policymakers can help employers on both counts by implementing a 'Good Jobs' strategy and job quality policies that create a more stable and skilled workforce.

What makes headlines from the survey is the increasing proportion of employers who report difficulty filling their workforce with skilled applicants as a top concern, and the 47% who report unfilled jobs due to a lack of qualified applicants. And those employers have a point – the data show a growing gap between the number of in-demand middle-skill jobs and the percent of Hoosiers who currently have the education and skills attainment to qualify for them. A new report from the Indiana Institute for Working Families breaks down the non-academic barriers (such as childcare, transportation, and stable housing) that prevent would-be adult students from enrolling, persisting, and completing the training needed for these in-demand jobs. To help fill the skills gap, Indiana policymakers should focus on removing these barriers to adult attainment as they overhaul workforce policies this year.

Incumbent worker training should be a natural way to increase the skills of a company’s workforce, but employer responses reveal roadblocks here, too. While nearly half (48%) of Indiana’s employers reported they offer tuition reimbursement programs to upskill their employees, and 40% report partnering with educational institutions to provide it, few indicated that employees successfully take advantage. Disturbingly high percentages of employers claim reasons such as employees' lack of desire/motivation to participate (60%) and ‘see no personal benefit in advancing their education’ (35%). But taken together, 58% of employers not taking advantage of reimbursement echo non-academic barriers: employees' inability to afford upfront tuition costs (32%), unaware (13%), lack of childcare (10%) or transportation (3%). Employers should better articulate internal career pathways for promotion and compensation to see more reimbursement program uptake. And policymakers should support their efforts by expanding and better marketing upskilling programs including prior learning assessments, EARN Indiana work-study, and aid for working adults pursuing degrees and credentials.

But beyond skill issues, the Chamber’s survey results about wages give a fuller picture of why Indiana’s employers have a hard time maintaining a skilled workforce. Nearly half (45%) of employer respondents agree or strongly agree they have applicants who are not willing to accept the pay offered, while the reported lack of minimal educational requirements in those cases was only 27%. That means the Chamber's own survey speaks to more of a ‘wage gap’ than a skills gap! In addition, only 26% of employers responded being very likely or extremely likely to add high-wage jobs in next two years. In fact, employers’ specific comments about their challenge with filling positions included “offering sufficient benefits/ compensation and matching salary expectations.”

The disconnect between employers' reported difficulty of filling positions and the high percent of applicants turning down low wage offers reflects a policy environment in Indiana that keeps wages and incomes below where employers and employees need them to be. Indiana’s wages increased only one tenth of one percent from 2000-2016, among the bottom ten in the nation. Median household incomes are more than $5,000 below the U.S. average as well, and grew so little in the past year that Indiana slipped from #34 in 2014 to #36 in 2015. U.S. Chamber of Commerce data from its own members shows a great majority of employers support higher wage and job quality policies. Nationwide, 79% of surveyed Chamber members supported raising the minimum wage, 73% supported paid sick leave, and 83% supported paid family leave.[1]

So what can be done? Change often starts at home, and employers can take steps to provide the wages and benefits applicants require to be self-sufficient at home and stable on the job. Companies who have problems with applicants turning down offers should seek to ‘transform today’s bad jobs into tomorrow’s good jobs’ by utilizing MIT research to provide wages, training, and skills that will more effectively grow the workforce of the future. These profitable strategies could help give a competitive edge to employers who feel they’d be putting themselves in a vulnerable position by offering better wages and benefits than they currently do.

Indiana’s legislators should support employers’ efforts by ‘raising the floor’ of wage & job quality policies such as fair scheduling & paid family leave, at the same time they ‘build ladders’ to career pathways with workforce development initiatives. Improving Indiana’s bottom-dwelling work & family policies will not only jibe with employers’ wishes as mentioned above, it will also give business a more stable and self-sufficient workforce and applicant base. This in turn will help reward high-road employers and build a high-wage, high-demand business climate for Indiana.

Indiana should listen to employers when they tell the state they need a skilled, sufficiently-paid workforce, and policymakers need to do their part to boost the economy and take the state's workforce to the next level.

[1] While Indiana received a federal grant to study paid family leave, the Legislative Council declined to assign it as a topic. This is unfortunate, because as our report shows, a state insurance system for paid leave could increase the supply of skilled labor and improve employee retention, morale, and productivity while lifting costs for businesses. 

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Federal Bulletin | 6.1.2017

Friday, June 2, 2017

17 Reasons to Raise Indiana's Minimum Wage in 2017

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17 Reasons to Raise Indiana's Minimum Wage in 2017

May 2017 | Amy Carter & Maria Laster


The past three years, the Indiana Institute for Working Families has given more and more reasons to increase the minimum wage. This year, we updated the list and added two new items with one theme: public health. As minimum wage debates continue, the positive public health outcomes cannot be overlooked or denied. Read on to see a compelling, though not exhaustive, list of seventeen reasons to raise the minimum wage in 2017.

1.    Working Towards Self-Sufficiency - 40 Hour Work Week: There is not one county in Indiana where working full time (40 hours/week) at the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is sufficient to support even a single adult, as shown in our Indiana Self-Sufficiency Standard 2016 report. A single adult has to work a median 48 hours per week at the minimum wage in order to be self-sufficient. The number of hours increases significantly - to 108 hours - for a single adult with one preschooler and one school-age child. For a family with two adults, a preschooler, and a school-age child, each adult would need to work 64 hours for the family to be self-sufficient. Let’s raise the minimum wage to a level that allows Hoosiers to spend time with the families for which they are working so hard to provide.

2.    Working Towards Self-Sufficiency – Housing: A full-time (40 hours), minimum wage ($7.25) worker in Indiana earns about $1,160 per month. The median Fair Market Rent for a single adult in a one-bedroom home across Indiana’s counties is $486, equaling 42% of a minimum wage worker’s monthly wages. The rule of thumb for housing says that no more than 30% of a worker’s monthly income should be spent on rent. However, national data shows over a third of US households faced housing cost burdens (meaning spending more than the rule of thumb) including 17% that are severely burdened (spending 50% or more of income). In order to afford the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment, which is what a family with children needs, a minimum wage earner must work 77 hours per week, 52 weeks per year! The minimum wage needs to be closer to $14 in order for a minimum wage worker to afford housing at less than 30% of their income.

3.    Working Towards Self-Sufficiency – Childcare: In Indiana, the cost of childcare almost exceeds monthly earnings for minimum wage workers. In 2015, the average cost of childcare for families with one infant and one four year old was over $1,300/month! Comparing that expense to the monthly minimum wage for a full-time worker, $1,160, it is not difficult to see why families are not self-sufficient. Childcare tax credits and state childcare vouchers can help, but not all children receive vouchers. In January 2017, Indiana had 4,385 children on Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) waitlists.  National data from 2015, the most recent year for which we have data, suggests that with the current investment in Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), only 15% of children eligible for child care assistance are getting support. A raise in the minimum wage could help make childcare more affordable for those at two and three times the federal poverty level, thus leaving spots open to increase access for low-income families who want this aid.  

4.    Public Opinion: A strong majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage. According to a 2015 New York Times poll, 71% of respondents favored raising the minimum wage to $10.10. The Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University found in their 2015 Hoosier Survey that 64% of respondents were supportive of a minimum wage raise to $10.10. While Democrats and Independents were more favorable, almost 46% of Republicans were in favor. It’s time for legislators to listen to their constituents.

5.    Tipped Workers – 26 Years Without a Raise: Waitstaff in Indiana are paid $2.13 per hour by their employers (29% of the minimum wage) according to the Department of Labor. Tips are expected to cover the difference between that wage and minimum wage; if they don’t, employers are to cover the difference. The last time tipped workers saw a raise was a quarter-century ago (1991), even as the industry has seen strong growth and profitability. Women make up the majority in tipped occupations. According the National Women's Law Center, gender gaps and poverty rates for tipped workers are smaller in states where the tipped minimum wage is equal to the minimum wage. See a simplified table of minimum wage, tipped wage, and poverty rate of women in tipped occupations here. As the fight for an increased minimum wage continues, tipped workers cannot be forgotten.

6.    It's Not Just for Teens AnymoreContrary to common perception, fewer than 20% of workers earning the minimum wage or below are teens. Minimum wage workers are not just high-schoolers earning spending money; they are at least 20 years old and have greater family responsibilities. (Check out Table 1 here for a breakdown by age, gender, and race.)  In Indiana specifically, 88% of those who would be affected by an increase in the minimum wage to $15 are age 20 and older. According to a recent Economic Policy Institute fact sheet, “the typical worker who would benefit from a $15 minimum wage is a 36-year-old woman with some college-level coursework who works full time.” The minimum wage conversation cannot be pushed aside based on the perceived age of minimum wage workers. (Though there is no justification for paying teenagers poverty level wages either. Perhaps a conversation for another day…)

7.    Gender Gap: Based on 2011-2015 data, white and Asian Hoosier women holding full-time, year-round jobs earn $0.76 for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Black and Latina Hoosier women earn even less, $0.66 and $0.54 respectively. This is unacceptable and raising the minimum wage can help. More than 301,000 households in Indiana are female-led. Thirty-two percent of those households – more than 97,000 – have incomes that fall below the poverty level. Increasing the minimum wage, especially in these female-dominated professions, could give these families more money for savings, child care, education, and housing.  Because 3/5th of minimum wage workers in Indiana are women, raising the wage is a good step toward equalizing pay.

8.    Wage Erosion: Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage peaked in 1968! (That's 49 years ago. 49 years!) The last federal raise was in 2009 and since then minimum wage has lost 9.6% of its purchasing power. If the minimum wage had grown with productivity, it would have been $18.85 in 2016. If it had only grown with average wages, it would still have been $11.35 in 2016. Because the value of the minimum wage has been left to erode due to inflation, more workers are earning poverty wages. Reducing the erosion of wages would be a good step towards reducing income inequality. 

9.    Low- to Mid-Wage Workers Earning Less: Real (inflation-adjusted) median hourly wages are down $0.84 since 2007, and 20th percentile wages are down $0.73. See interactive data here. Raising the minimum wage would likely increase these mid-range wages as well.

10.  Race to the Bottom: According to a 2016 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.9% of hourly workers in Indiana make at or below minimum wage. 3.9% represents 32,000 workers at minimum wage and 37,000 workers below minimum wage. That's more than all neighbor states (Illinois 3.2%, Kentucky 3.5%, Michigan 3.7%, and Ohio 2.9%) and the U.S. average of 3.3%.

11.  Myth of a Spike in Unemployment: Critics of raising the minimum wage often argue that an increase will cause a spike in unemployment. However, seven decades of historical data find no correlation between minimum wage increases and employment levels. On the contrary, in the considerable majority of instances (68%), overall employment increased after a federal minimum wage increase. In the most substantially affected industries, the rates were even higher: in the leisure and hospitality sector, employment rose 82% of the time following a federal wage increase, and in the retail sector it rose 73% of the time. Moreover, the small minority of instances in which employment declined —either overall or in the indicator sectors—following a federal minimum wage increase occurred during periods of recession or near recession.

12.  Economic Growth: In a stagnant economy, increasing wages can lead to economic growth. Low-wage workers tend to spend any additional income they receive on their basic needs. If the minimum wage increases, these workers would pump money into the economy, boosting GDP, which would produce job growth in the broader economy. Economic Policy Institute supports this idea, saying that a “high pressure economy that eliminates the remaining demand shortfall in the U.S. economy and leads to low rates of unemployment and rapid wage growth would likely induce faster productivity growth.”

13.  Growing the Tax Base: Standard and Poor's cites rising income inequality as contributing to weaker tax revenue growth, making it more difficult for state and local governments to invest in education and infrastructure. This year, the Indiana General Assembly (IGA) discussed the expansion of Pre-K education, which not only prepares students for academic and social success, but allows parents to work or go back to school. However, funding was not increased as much as advocates suggested. Increasing the minimum wage could give the IGA more money to provide supports for low-income Hoosiers (which helps them reach self-sufficiency, which means more income for taxes, which can increase funding for education, which helps people reach self-sufficiency, and so on and so forth.)

14.  Reduce Need of and Spending on Public Assistance: According to a 2016 Economic Policy Institute report using Census data from 2012-2014, for those in the lowest wage category (those earning up to $9.91/hour), a $1 increase in hourly wages reduces the likelihood of needing public assistance by 3.8%. So if this entire group consisting of 15.5 million workers had an average $1 increase in hourly wages, there would be an approximate 3.8% decline in dependence on public aid, or 600,000 fewer workers receiving benefits. The study also found that for each $1 increase in minimum wage, benefit dollars for all public assistance programs decreased by $199. If those making $9.91/hour or less each had an average $1/hour raise, the expenditures on means-tested government benefit would go down $3.1 billion annually.

15.  Future Generations: Low wages not only affect adults, but children as well. Research has found that children being raised in poverty have worse physical, psychosocial, and academic outcomes than more affluent peers. A recent study of minimum wage increases showed that a $1 increase in minimum wage implies a 9.6% decrease in neglect reports.  Raising the wage will help ameliorate the deleterious effects of poverty on children, specifically reducing the risk of child welfare involvement for children 0-12 years old.

16.  Decreasing Teen Birth Rate: Teen parenthood costs the public more than $9 billion per year and can decrease the educational and employment outcomes of both the teen and the child. A recent study done by an Indiana University researcher found that a minimum wage increase of $1 would reduce the adolescent birth rate by 2%, leading to about 5000 fewer adolescent births per year. As the discussion on minimum wage continues, positive unintended consequences, like the effects on public health, can be strong debate points and influences in creating minimum wage policy.  

17.  Decreasing Infant Mortality Factors: A 2016 study looked at minimum wage, birth weight, and post-neonatal mortality by state from 1980-2011 to see what effect minimum wage had on infant mortality and birth weight. They found that a $1 increase above the federal minimum wage decreased low birth weight births by 1-2% and decreased post-neonatal mortality by 4%. In 2005, the social and health cost for low weight births was over $26 billion! Imagine how great the impact is a decade later. According to KIDS COUNT data from the Annie E. Casey foundation, Indiana does not compare well to neighboring states – 7.3 infant deaths per 1000 live births compared to 6.0 in Illinois, 6.7 in Kentucky, 6.6 in Michigan, and 7.2 in Ohio. (You can see interactive data on infant mortality here.) Raising the minimum wage can not only save money on public health outcomes, it can literally save lives.

Self-sufficient hourly wages are wages that allow an income that will meet the essential needs of an individual or family without public or private assistance. When looking at wages across the state, the lowest wages for a single adult to be self-sufficient are in Vermillion County at $7.96 and the highest wages are $11.39 in Hamilton County, with the median self-sufficiency wage across all Indiana counties for a single adult at $8.78. Families with children have significantly higher self-sufficiency needs. For an adult with a preschool child, the lowest self-sufficient wages are $13.58 in Cass County and rise all the way to $23.18 in Hamilton County. When looking at an appropriate minimum wage, these numbers should be taken into account. If we want to create public policy that ensures self-sufficiency for all Hoosiers – and I think we do – the minimum wage discussion needs to start at least at the highest self-sufficiency wage for a single adult.

Minimum wage discussions are happening all over the nation –  in local communities, in statehouses, in Congressional offices, and hopefully at the White House. This list goes through just a few of the many reasons that the minimum wage is no longer sufficient or acceptable. As long as it stays at the outdated level, it will continue to fail Hoosiers and Americans who are working towards a better future. 

You can also read our 16 Reasons, 15 Reasons, and 14 reasons on the blog.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Blog Archive

Calculate the living wage for 70 different family types in all 92 counties

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