Badger Blueprint Restores Opportunity for Middle Class

By State Senator Julie Lassa

Too many Wisconsin families feel like they are working harder and falling farther behind.  And it’s no wonder: real wages continue to stagnate, while the costs of basic necessities continue to rise.  Even in the midst of Wisconsin’s anemic job growth, our state is still losing middle and upper income jobs. All these factors contribute to the fact that people are falling out of the middle class in Wisconsin faster than any other state in the nation.

Senate Democrats know that the health of our entire economy depends on the health of our middle class.  That’s why our Badger Blueprint has an emphasis on promoting greater opportunities for people to achieve and preserve the American Dream.  My previous two weekly columns focused on the first two policy themes of the Blueprint, Growth and Innovation.  This week I’ll share the third theme, fostering greater Opportunity.

One of the reasons middle class families are feeling such a pinch now is the increasing difficulty of balancing the demands of work and family.  For example, Wisconsin has been ranked as one of the 10 most expensive states for childcare.  To help families shoulder this burden, we propose an income tax credit to alleviate the cost of childcare, so working parents can be sure their kids are well cared for without worrying about whether they can afford it.

Similarly, no one should have to choose between taking care of their health and being able to provide for their families.  And yet, more than one million employees of private sector companies – nearly half of Wisconsin’s workforce – lack paid sick leave.   The Earned Sick Days Act will mandate paid sick days to allow employees to care for their own health, or that of a child or relative, allowing them to care for themselves and their families without jeopardizing their ability to make ends meet.  We would also institute a Family Medical Leave Insurance, allowing employees to contribute to a trust fund to provide income when they need extended time to care for a sick family member.

The rising cost of health care is another burden that holds middle class families back.  That’s why the Blueprint calls for the expansion of BadgerCare to make health care affordable for an estimated 81,000 additional Wisconsin residents. Not only would more families have health care under this plan, taxpayers would actually save an estimated $345 million, money that could be used to help our cash-strapped school systems, provide better drug coverage for seniors, or fund long-term care for people with disabilities. 

Another cornerstone of the American Dream is the opportunity to retire securely.  But four in ten Wisconsin workers have employers who don’t offer a retirement plan, and more than 65 percent say the challenge of saving for retirement is causing them to put off retirement as long as possible.  The Badger Blueprint would create the Wisconsin Private Retirement Security Board to provide low-cost retirement plans with strong investment reserves to help all participants achieve a reliable retirement income.

Everyone who is willing to work hard ought to have the opportunity to achieve a secure life for themselves and their families.  With the Badger Blueprint, Wisconsin Democrats have articulated a plan to reverse the state’s current slide and help restore the security of our middle class families.