CHN: Democrats Considering Attaching Minimum Wage Increase to Pensions Bill

Articles from September 13, 2002
Senators Urge Daschle to Bring Welfare to Senate Floor
A busy Senate floor schedule and lack of consensus continue to delay movement on the reauthorization of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) – the 1996 law that created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Set to expire on September 30, 2002, TANF provides critical assistance to low-income populations, including cash benefits and various work supports.

Senate Committee Approves Child Care Bill
On Wednesday, September 4, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved legislation by voice vote to increase discretionary child care subsidies by $1 billion for fiscal year 2003. The bill (S 2758) would boost discretionary funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to a total of $3.1 billion for the next fiscal year.

House Considers Education Tax-Break Measure
The House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill (HR 5193) on September 5 that would give tax deductions to low-income families to cover education expenses such as tuition, transportation, books, and computers. The measure would apply to public, private, religious, and home schooling, for both elementary and secondary education.

Senate Adds $6 Billion in Drought Assistance to Interior Bill
On Tuesday, September 10, the Senate voted 79-16 to attach a $6 billion emergency drought package to the $19.3 billion fiscal year 2003 Interior bill (HR 5093). Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) sponsored the measure, which was supported by forty-eight Democrats and thirty-one Republicans. Under the amendment, the $6 billion assistance would not count against 2003 farm bill spending, a bill that the administration claims has more than enough funds for current emergency drought needs. Anti-poverty advocates worry that taking the drought money out of the farm bill would encroach upon funds needed for important food and nutrition programs.

Labor HHS Bill in Limbo
In an unusual move that underscores the tension between House appropriators and the Republican leadership, on September 4, Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) bypassed committee consideration to introduce the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill for direct consideration by the House. The bill matches the budget request of President Bush, which Democrats and many moderate Republicans claim falls short of adequate funding for many popular and essential programs.

CBO Forecast Revises Deficit Up and Surplus Down
Citing a dramatic decrease in tax revenue, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced in its mid-year budget forecast that the deficit for fiscal year 2002 will climb to $157 billion and the ten year surplus (2003-2012) will only be $1 trillion – down sharply from last year’s projection of $5.6 trillion. This projection also conflicts with the Administration’s own forecast of $2.5 trillion over the same period. The CBO has indicated that the majority of the $1 trillion surplus will not materialize until after last year’s $1.34 trillion tax cuts expire. The entire amount of the surplus will come from Social Security receipts. Under law, the CBO is required to complete this forecast without considering of the possibility of large military increases or other major expenditures such as a prescription drug benefit.

VA-HUD Appropriations Still Held Up
As the October 1 end of the fiscal year quickly approaches, the fiscal year 2003 appropriations bill for the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development Departments (VA-HUD) is just one of the 13 total appropriations bills awaiting completion. Appropriators in both bodies are scrambling to complete work on all the annual spending bills, and while the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the 2003 numbers for VA-HUD on July 25 (see the August 2 edition of The Human Needs Report), the House might not handle VA-HUD appropriations until after it completes work on all other spending bills. There has been some debate among House appropriators about what would constitute an adequate funding level for VA-HUD. It is unclear when the VA-HUD spending bill will see Senate floor action, or when the House will take up the measure. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has indicated that the appropriations deadlock may continue until after the November elections, and that a “lame duck” session could be necessary to complete work on appropriations. Visit the National Low Income Housing Coalition website to view a HUD fiscal year 2003 budget chart

Democrats Considering Attaching Minimum Wage Increase to Pensions Bill
Senate Democrats might attach a minimum-wage-hike measure to pension reform legislation slated for consideration after work is completed on Homeland Security legislation. Earlier this session, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy introduced legislation (S 2538) to increase the minimum wage incrementally by $1.50 per hour over the next year and a half. That bill had not seen much action until late May, when Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Kennedy announced plans to get a floor vote on the measure before the August recess (see the May 24 edition of The Human Needs Report). Nevertheless, action on the bill continues to be delayed while supporters seek ways to make a minimum wage increase more attractive to moderate Republicans. The wage increase could be partnered with a package of small-business tax cuts that the Senate Finance Committee is expected to mark up sometime soon. Many business groups have come out against the increase, saying they would not support a wage hike even if it were coupled with provisions they would support separately.

Labor and Employment
minimum wage