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Julie Vogtman, Senior Counsel

Julie Vogtman is Senior Counsel for the Family Economic Security Program at the National Women’s Law Center. She works on a range of issues involving economic support for low-income women and their families, including minimum wage policies, unemployment benefits, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). She also contributes to the Center’s work on federal budget and tax policies, including implementation of the tax credit components of the Affordable Care Act.  Prior to joining the Center, Ms. Vogtman was an associate with Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of Furman University and Georgetown University Law Center.

My Take

Good News for Maryland Women: Minimum Wage Increase to Be Introduced

Posted by | Posted on: January 30, 2013 at 11:53 am

Remember when a hot dog and a soda cost 39 cents? Yeah, neither do we.

We all know that restaurant prices rise nearly every year with inflation. The cost of everything from groceries to gas to rent rises, too. But many workers have not seen their wages rise in years, leaving them straining to make ends meet on paychecks that keep getting smaller relative to the cost of living.

For our neighbors in Maryland, the minimum wage is stuck at $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum, and the minimum cash wage for tipped workers is woefully low at $3.63 per hour (though higher than the federal floor of $2.13 per hour). If the minimum wage had risen with inflation over the past several decades, it would be close to $10.60 per hour today. But neither the minimum wage nor the tipped minimum wage is linked to inflation in Maryland, so the purchasing power of these extremely low wages erodes further each year.

Today, full-time minimum wage earnings in Maryland amount to just $14,500 annually – more than $3,600 below the federal poverty line for a mom with two children. Women represent over 60 percent of the workers struggling to get by on the minimum wage in Maryland, and people of color are disproportionately represented among the minimum wage workforce as well.

But there is good news on the horizon. Maryland lawmakers are about to introduce a bill to gradually raise the Maryland minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.00 per hour, set the tipped minimum wage at 70 percent of the minimum wage, and index both wages to keep pace with inflation.

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Gov. Christie (Mostly) Rejects Minimum Wage Increase NJ Women Need

Posted by Julie Vogtman, Senior Counsel | Posted on: January 29, 2013 at 01:45 pm

Yesterday was the deadline for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to act on a minimum wage bill that the state legislature passed in December. Governor Christie did not sign the bill, which would have raised the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour and adjusted it annually to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that the legislature's bill would lift wages for over half a million New Jersey workers, 55 percent of them women. But these hardworking women and their families will have to wait longer for the raise they need, since Governor Christie issued a "conditional veto" — that is, he sent the bill back to the legislature with proposed changes.

Most of those changes would seriously weaken the bill that a majority of elected representatives in New Jersey already passed. Governor Christie's proposal would raise New Jersey's minimum wage to $8.25 per hour over three years, rather than to $8.50 in 2013. And once the wage reached $8.25, it would be stuck there until the legislature acted again to raise it, because Governor Christie's proposal would eliminate the annual cost-of-living adjustments in future years.

New Jersey's cost of living is among the highest in the country. Indexing the minimum wage for inflation is essential to help ensure that the buying power of the minimum wage does not erode as it has over the past decades; indeed, if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since the 1960s, it would be more than $10.50 per hour today. Perhaps that's why a recent poll showed 76 percent of New Jerseyans support both raising the state's minimum wage and tying the wage to inflation.

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Mulvaney Amendment Means (At Least) Five More Problems with Boehner’s Plan B

Posted by Julie Vogtman, Senior Counsel | Posted on: December 20, 2012 at 02:39 pm

Yesterday we reported that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had introduced a tax bill – referred to as “Plan B” – that protects most tax cuts for the richest two percent, ends improvements in tax credits for hardworking families, and does nothing to help two million jobless workers who are about to lose federal unemployment benefits. The House is scheduled to vote on this disastrous bill tonight.

But wait, there’s more! The House is now also scheduled to vote on an amendment introduced by Rep. Mulvaney (R-SC) that would make Plan B even more dangerous for women and their families by adding harmful spending cuts to the unfair tax policies in the bill. The Mulvaney amendment is nearly identical to a bill passed by the House passed in the spring, which would avoid the automatic cuts scheduled to begin in January for the remainder of FY 2013 – but only by replacing those across-the-board cuts with deep cuts targeted to many programs that women and their families especially depend on. So here are my top five reasons why the Mulvaney amendment makes a bad bill much, much worse:

  1. It slashes funding for health care. Among other cuts that would hamper implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the amendment would reduce access to affordable coverage by discouraging the use of premium tax credits designed to help people pay for health insurance. The amendment also allows states to restrict their eligibility standards for Medicaid, which could reduce eligibility or benefits for millions – especially women, who disproportionately rely on Medicaid for health care coverage.

  2. It cuts nutrition assistance for low-income families. Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) in the amendment would reduce monthly benefits almost immediately for about 44 million people and deny benefits altogether for as many as 2 million more. In addition, about 280,000 low-income children would lose access to free meals at school.

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Top Five Problems with Boehner's "Plan B"

Posted by Julie Vogtman, Senior Counsel | Posted on: December 19, 2012 at 04:15 pm

You may have heard that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has introduced a tax bill that is now being referred to as "Plan B" — that is, a backup plan of sorts if the negotiations with President Obama to resolve the "fiscal cliff" break down. The House is scheduled to vote on it tomorrow. But Plan B is a bad deal for women and their families. Here are the top five reasons why:

  1. Plan B raises taxes for 25 million low- and moderate-income families. By ending important improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), and eliminating the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) for college expenses, Plan B takes tax benefits away from the families who need them most. NWLC has calculated that ending the improvements to the EITC and CTC would take $12.6 billion in tax credits from hardworking families — and women would bear two-thirds of those losses.

  2. Plan B lets millionaires off easy. By keeping in place all of the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes up to $1 million and repealing tax expenditure limits for even the very highest earners, Plan B ensures that households with incomes over $1 million — the top 0.3 percent — still get tax cuts averaging $50,000 per year (compared with President Obama's proposal to end the Bush-era tax cuts on income above $200,000 for an individual or $250,000 for a couple).

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Home Care Workers Shouldn’t Have to Wait Any Longer for Basic Labor Protections

Posted by Julie Vogtman, Senior Counsel | Posted on: December 13, 2012 at 02:51 pm

One year ago, President Obama announced new regulations proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) that would grant minimum wage and overtime pay to home care workers, a workforce that has been unfairly denied these basic protections for decades. In his remarks last December, he described a day he spent with Pauline Beck, a home care worker from Oakland, California:

“When we met, she was getting up every day at 5:00 a.m. to go to work taking care of an 86-year-old amputee named ‘Mr. John.’ And each day, she’d dress Mr. John and help him into his wheelchair. She’d make him breakfast. She’d scrub his floors. She’d clean his bathroom. She was his connection to the outside world. And when the workday was done, she would go home to take care of a grandnephew and two foster children who didn’t have families of their own. Heroic work, and hard work. That’s what Pauline was all about.”

Pauline’s story is illustrative. Like Pauline, most home care workers are women. They take on the vitally important work of caring for our neighbors and family members who need help to stay in their homes – and like Pauline, many home care workers also have their own families to support. But for decades, their difficult and demanding jobs have come without the basic protections of the federal minimum wage and overtime laws.

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