Capitol Comments

Only 36.4 percent of eligible voters voted in the 2014 midterm election – the lowest turnout since 1942. Voter turnout during presidential election years is higher than turnout during midterm elections. In 2012, 58.2 percent of eligible voters voted – nearly 20 percentage points higher than the turnout just two years later in a midterm year.   

What a difference a year makes. On Jan. 1, 2014, only 21 states had a minimum wage higher than the federal wage. One year later, more than half of states – 29 – are set to have a minimum wage higher than the federal rate of $7.25/hr. Ten states enacted minimum wage increases during the 2014 legislative session and four states passed a wage hike via ballot initiative.

In the 2014 midterm election, voter turnout rates ranged from a low of 28 percent in Indiana and 28.5 percent in Texas to a high of 59.3 percent in Maine and 56.9 percent in Wisconsin. Nationally, the turnout rate was 36.3 percent.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Although Congress did not pass minimum wage legislation in 2014, a number of states have taken action and others likely will address this issue in 2015. The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that from 2013 to 2017, about 7 million workers will benefit from minimum wage increases enacted by state and local governments.1

The U.S. Dept. of Labor announced last week that Michigan has been awarded $2.8 million to enhance and expand its short-time compensation program (STC), which is designed to help prevent layoffs through “work-sharing”. STC programs are administered through the federal-state unemployment compensation system and allow employers to reduce employee work hours during tough economic times as an alternative to laying them off. Through the STC program, employees who have had their hours reduced receive some percentage of the weekly unemployment benefits that they would have received if they had been completely laid off.  

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