Minimum wage

The federal minimum wage is currently set at $5.15 an hour. Approximately 7.3 million people (5.8 percent of the work force) in the United States try to survive on this amount, but is it enough? A full time worker (40 hours a week), earning minimum wage, makes $9,888 a year. The poverty level for a one-person household is $9,800. If two people in a family of four are both making minimum wage, and have two children, their annual income is $19,776. The poverty level for a four-person household is $20,000. A one-person household is $88 dollars above poverty level, barely scratching and surviving, and the four-person household is $224 dollars below poverty level.

Employers know if the federal minimum wage is increased, the labor market would tighten and job cuts may result. Employers might have to raise prices to cover costs and sales would drop.

Minimum wage is supposed to be a starting point; providing workers with an incentive to move upward in the work force.

Still minimum wage is not indexed to inflation and when adjusted for inflation, $5.15 is currently worth 26 percent less today than it was in 1979. Perhaps it is time Congress looks seriously at resolving the difference.

Ada Evening News

Sign the OJA bill

The Legislature in its recently adjourned session passed and sent to Gov. Brad Henry a bill that reorganizes the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs and improves the way it deals with the 41 nonprofit youth services agencies around the state that provide counseling and other services to troubled children.

The governor has 15 days from the close of the session to sign the measure, House Bill 2999, into law. Otherwise it will die, a victim of the pocket veto. Henry ought to sign this important and much-needed legislation.

The youth services agencies, including Youth Services of Tulsa, are private, nonprofit groups that offer a myriad of programs, such as short-term counseling and emergency shelters, for troubled adolescents and teenagers. YST, for example, augments the state funds it receives with private contributions and thus is able to offer a greater variety of services.

HB 2999 is necessary because OJA has shifted its emphasis in recent years from treatment and intervention, which the youth-services groups provide, to a corrections or punishment mind-set.

Not only has OJA failed to seek increased funding for nonprofit service providers, it has been increasingly uncooperative with them.

HB 2999 will improve OJA’s dealings with the nonprofit and at the same time will make the nonprofit more accountable to OJA for the way they spend money from their contracts with the state.

Unfortunately, OJA has no wish to be reorganized, indicative of the way it’s been treating the locally governed nonprofit agencies, and has been pressing the governor to veto the bill.

Henry ought to listen to the local, grass-roots groups that provide invaluable services to troubled young people. He ought to sign the OJA reorganization into law.

The Tulsa World

The special session

The governor called for a special session again because state lawmakers failed to do their jobs before the 2006 session ended May 26. It appears they just can’t set the state’s priorities right.

Lawmaker differences on spending plans for state colleges and universities and a proposed 5 percent state worker pay raise hit an impasse Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan blamed the breakdown on House Speaker Todd Hiett. Hiett says the Democrat-led Senate isn’t negotiating “in good faith to do the business of the state.”

Both lawmakers are now taking shots at one another — something that isn’t helping the people of Oklahoma.

The fiscal year begins July 1. The GOP wants the largest tax cut in state history. Democrats have other priorities.

Voters should recall that this kind of political standoff has led to special sessions year after year. Because lawmakers fail to tackle the major issues facing the state — funding, prisons, education, health care — early in the legislative session, they end up in a special session, blaming each other for not getting the job done.

We think Gov. Brad Henry is correct when he says “completing a state budget is the primary duty of lawmakers, and they must fulfill their responsibility.”

They will, governor, but not without wasting taxpayer dollars on a major issue that should have been decided early in the 2006 session.

Muskogee Daily Phoenix

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