Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.
With the debate in D.C. currently centered around exactly how much more federal budget austerity to enact, and with the budget sequester threatening 750,000 jobs nationwide looking more and more likely to go into effect March 1st, the jobless also continue to be under attack in the states. This week, one state signed devastating cuts to their unemployment insurance system into law, another advanced a restructuring of their system that would endanger their federal funding, and efforts to ban employer discrimination against the jobless ran into the veto pen of a billionaire big-city mayor:
In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two high-profile challenges affecting states directly: Shelby County v. Holder, a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as two cases on same-sex marriage. Arguments in the Voting Rights Act case are scheduled for February 27th, while arguments in the two marriage cases, Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor, are set for late March. States and the Obama administration are already filing briefs in advance of both cases. At the same time, efforts to advance marriage equality continued this week in state legislatures including Minnesota and New Jersey:
Out sick this week? You weren't alone. In the midst of one of the worst flu seasons in years, states and municipalities across the nation are seeing an increasing focus on workers' lack of access to paid sick time. Unfortunately, in some places, that has also meant conservatives focused on pre-empting and reversing existing protections, including taking away the rights of local municipalities to determine what's best for their communities:
Many states are already considering action on the minimum wage in new sessions — by legislation or by ballot initiative. Polls and studies released this week continued to show both the broad and deep popularity and the positive economic effects of raising the wage:
“By our estimation New York has the strongest law in the country,” says Tim Judson, workers' rights policy specialist with the Progressive States Network, and co-author (with Cristina Francisco-McGuire) of a new study, Cracking Down on Wage Theft: State Strategies for Protecting Workers and Recovering Revenues. “But wage theft laws are almost universally poor. In recent years a few states took strong steps, but even those laws have a ways to go before they are a model standard that could really be effective in cracking down on a problem this huge.”
One year after New York's new wage theft law took effect, the Progressive States Network has named the state the nation’s leader in confronting the issue. Speaking on a media call Wednesday, PSN Senior Policy Specialist Tim Judson said the 2010 law has proved “the strongest in the country.” But he warned that the national picture remains bleak: “Where wage theft is concerned, there are essentially no cops on the beat.”