Thursday, January 19, 2006

maybe we do have a 2-party system after all

Here's a feel-good article for Maryland Dems. After you've read it, look at the second article, below, which tersely shows how wage-earners are falling behind as price indexes continue to climb.

Minimum Wage Raised In Maryland Over Veto
Governor Considers Move a 'Job Killer'

By John Wagner and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 18, 2006; Page A01


Maryland lawmakers voted yesterday to raise the state's minimum wage by $1 an hour, delivering a pay increase to more than 50,000 workers who toil on the bottom rung of the employment ladder.

The Democrat-led Senate voted 30 to 17 to override Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s veto of the legislation, which will in 30 days officially increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $6.15 an hour, $1 more than what is mandated by federal law. The House, also led by Democrats, voted to override Ehrlich (R) last week.

The veto override was the second in the opening days of the 2006 General Assembly session to draw a bolder line between the two parties as they head into a hotly contested election season, a split that follows a traditional storyline for each party.

Democrats billed the passage of the wage bill, coupled with legislation approved last week requiring Wal-Mart to spend more on employee health benefits, as a way to plant their party firmly on the side of working-class voters. The governor, by contrast, wants to show his party's unyielding commitment to the business community.

Both bills were part of a series of rapid-fire votes cast in the opening weeks of the legislative session that could drive up Democratic turnout on Election Day. Yesterday also brought passage of two vetoed bills that proponents said will make it easier for people to vote. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 2 to 1, any increased turnout is expected to benefit Democrats.

One bill approved over the governor's veto will expand the number of days polling places will stay open, allowing voting as early as a week before the election. Another will criminalize any effort to trick or intimidate potential voters from going to the polls.

During debate on the measure in the House, Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore) said it was "shameful" that the wage has not been increased in nine years. "Anybody recall what a gas-electric bill was in 1997?" asked McIntosh, who then held up her home heating bill, which had nearly doubled.

Here's the article on wages and prices.

Inflation Hit Five-Year High of 3.4% Last Year
Wages Didn't Keep Up, Labor Department Says

By Nell Henderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 19, 2006; Page D01


Surging energy prices pushed consumer inflation to a five-year high in 2005, outpacing average wage gains for most U.S. workers, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

The department's consumer price index, a widely followed inflation gauge, rose 3.4 percent last year, the fastest rate since 2000, reflecting higher prices for fuel oil, gasoline, natural gas and electricity, the department said.

Workers' average pay rose more slowly. Average hourly wages fell 0.5 percent and average weekly earnings declined 0.4 percent, after adjusting for inflation, in the 12 months that ended in December, the department said in a separate report.

Last year was the third consecutive year in which weekly wages fell, after adjusting for price changes, according to department statistics on the 92 million private production and non-managerial service workers who make up more than 80 percent of the nation's workforce.

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