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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

North Carolina has Fifth Highest State Unemployment Rate, but Cuts UI Benefits for Women and Men

Posted by | Posted on: February 20, 2013 at 05:31 pm

In 2012, North Carolina had an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent – the fifth highest state unemployment rate last year. Yet, just yesterday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that will dramatically cut unemployment insurance (UI) in the state starting July 1st.

The cuts in the new law are harmful for everyone, but especially for women. In 2012, the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent for women in North Carolina, substantially higher than the rate for men (8.8 percent). Unemployment rates among black men (17.7 percent), black women (13.8 percent), and Hispanic women (11.4 percent) were also much higher than the North Carolina state average. In addition, the law restricts eligibility by, for example, disqualifying workers from benefits if they have to leave a job for health reasons or because of undue family hardship – a change that will particularly impact women.


Kick 70,000 Kids Off Head Start (for Starters) or Make Millionaires Pay a Fair Share - Senators Will Decide Soon

Yesterday, Senate Democrats proposed a plan to postpone across-the-board spending cuts — known inside the beltway as the “sequester” — that are currently scheduled to take effect in just two weeks, on March 1. The bill, called the American Family Economic Protection Act, includes $120 billion of savings — enough to replace the sequester through the end of calendar year 2013. 

Unlike the sequester, which reduces the deficit solely through deep spending cuts (on top of earlier spending cuts that are 2.5 times greater than new revenues), the American Family Economic Protection Act achieves savings from an equal amount of revenues and cuts (plus about $10 billion in interest savings). The bill would raise $54 billion over 10 years by adopting the “Buffett rule,” a measure that would ensure very wealthy taxpayers cannot get away with paying taxes at a lower effective rate than middle class families. Those with incomes above $1 million (after subtracting charitable contributions) would be required to pay at least a 30 percent tax rate, with a phase-in for incomes between $1 million and $2 million. An additional $1 billion in revenue would be raised by eliminating an oil industry tax loophole and a tax deduction for businesses that ship jobs overseas. 

On the spending side, savings in the bill would come mostly from modest reductions in the overall level of defense spending — which would not begin until FY 2015, when the war in Afghanistan is expected to end – and cuts in agriculture subsidies, especially direct payments to farmers that are currently provided regardless of yields, prices, or farm income.  

All in all, this sounds like a reasonable proposal to us — especially compared to the sequester, which would be devastating for many programs that women and their families depend on.


New Jersey Voters to Decide on Minimum Wage Increase

Posted by Julie Vogtman, Senior Counsel | Posted on: February 15, 2013 at 03:51 pm

Momentum continues to build around a minimum wage increase in the days following President Obama’s call to raise the federal level. Today brings good news from the Garden State, where the New Jersey Assembly just approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour, then adjust the wage annually to keep up with inflation. The Senate approved the same proposal last week. Whether New Jersey workers get a raise is now up to the voters: the amendment will be on the ballot this November. (State lawmakers adopted the constitutional amendment strategy after Governor Christie issued a conditional veto of the minimum wage bill the legislature passed last year; the governor has no role in the amendment process.)

A minimum wage of $8.25 per hour would increase a full-time minimum wage worker’s annual pay from $14,500 to $16,500. This $2,000 boost would still not be enough to lift a family of three above the poverty line, and it definitely falls short of a living wage in a state as expensive as New Jersey. Moreover, the proposed constitutional amendment would not change New Jersey’s minimum cash wage for tipped workers, which is just $2.13 per hour. (Though employers would be required to ensure their tipped employees are paid $8.25 per hour, tipped workers are often paid less than the minimum wage due to wage theft and other illegal practices.) Nonetheless, a $1.00 per hour increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage would be an important step in the right direction – and indexing wages to inflation would help ensure that these very modest gains are not erased as the cost of living rises.


It’s 2.13 – Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

Posted by Julie Vogtman, Senior Counsel | Posted on: February 13, 2013 at 06:24 pm

ROC United's Rally on Capitol HillToday is kind of a big deal for advocates pushing for a higher minimum wage (myself included). As you may have heard, in his State of the Union address last night, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage and indexing it to keep pace with inflation – and did so eloquently, I might add:

"We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. …

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. …For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on."

And there’s another reason today is important in the minimum wage fight: February 13 is 2.13 – and $2.13 is the minimum hourly cash wage that millions of tipped workers have been paid since 1991. (Though President Obama didn’t mention the tipped minimum wage in his remarks, the White House affirms that it should be increased along with the regular minimum wage.) Today, tipped workers from across the country convened in Washington, DC to call for the fair wages they have been denied for far too long.


States Taking the Lead on Higher Minimum Wages

Posted by Julie Vogtman, Senior Counsel | Posted on: February 11, 2013 at 01:43 pm

It’s been a busy few weeks on the minimum wage front, as policymakers in a slew of states have moved to raise wages for low-paid workers. If you follow our blog, you already know that minimum wage increases are on the agenda in Maryland and New York – and you know that this is especially good news for women, who make up the majority of minimum wage workers in those states and across the country.

While a federal minimum wage increase – like the one proposed in the Fair Minimum Wage Act last year – is needed to boost pay for minimum wage and tipped workers throughout the U.S., it’s great to see momentum building at the state level. Here’s a quick run-down of recent developments:

  • California. A bill pending in the Assembly, AB-10, would increase the minimum wage from $8.00 per hour to $8.25 in 2014, $8.75 in 2015, and $9.25 in 2016, then adjust the wage annually for inflation beginning in 2017.
  • Connecticut. A bill pending in the Senate, S.B. 387, would raise the minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $9.00 in July 2013 and $9.75 in July 2014, with annual indexing beginning in July 2015. NWLC’s new fact sheet shows that over 246,000 Connecticut workers would get a raise by 2014 under this proposal – and about six in ten of those workers would be women.