Economic Reform


 

It is my belief that the people of Madison deserve the right to live a life of dignity, and the City of Madison has an obligation to its citizens to serve them and provide them with the opportunities to prosper.

 

 

   Job security during uncertain times

Due to the pandemic, unemployment in Madison has skyrocketed to its highest level in the least 10 years. 

The pandemic has accelerated the need for a higher-skilled workforce. In the words of M.I.T. Labor Economist David Autor: “This is the moment when we should make a significant public investment…” Madison can make such an investment, by introducing public jobs training programs. Now, we’ve seen examples of these all across the state, like Compete Milwaukee, UMOS Inc., and the Northeast Wisconsin Concentrated Employment Program, and they’ve all seen great results. Public jobs training programs are a great way to qualify the unemployed for new high-skilled jobs.

This is great for Madison because Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin just recently introduced the “Jobs For Economic Recovery Act” which would give a federal dollar match for each dollar spent on jobs programs by municipalities as well as tax credits for employee retention. This bill has bipartisan support and is even publicly supported by the mayor of Milwaukee. If elected I plan to help Madison establish our own jobs training program so that we can take advantage of this fantastic federal legislation.

   Ensuring a Livable Minimum Wage

It is also the belief of this campaign that workers who do not possess high skill jobs, should still be paid a livable wage. Currently, the minimum wage in Madison is $7.25. Working 40 hours a week on minimum wage makes you $1200 a month before tax. The average cost of rent in Madison is $931. So after paying rent, you’re left with $269 to use for food, gas, utilities, insurance, phone, and every other cost of living. Leaving the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour leaves our poorest vulnerable — as the cost of living in Madison has increased, the wages haven’t, trapping people in a cycle of poverty. In fact, the City of Madison reports that effective January 2020, the living wage of this city is $13.62 an hour. 

My plan is to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10 with plans to incrementally increase it through 2025 when the minimum wage will match the city’s living wage — whatever it may be at that time. From there, the minimum wage should increase with the Cost of Living Adjustment renewed every year. The initial raise of wage from $7.25 to $10, as well as all subsequent ones, will have to be gradual and incremental over the course of months so as not to catch business off guard.

   Affordable Housing

The Department of Housing and Urban Development found that nearly half of the renters in Dane County are cost-burdened by their rent, meaning rent takes up more than 30% of their income. The more that’s spent on rent, the less is spent on other necessities, like food, health care, or transportation. UW’s Institute for Research on Poverty tells us that cost-burdened households are more likely to have unstable housing situations, live in low-quality housing, and face eviction and even homelessness.

There are a couple of ways that this could be fixed: this campaign is currently looking into affordable housing requirements for multi-tenant buildings. For example, if an apartment has more than 100 units, 5% to 10% of the units should be price-controlled as affordable housing units. Obviously the government cannot control individual businesses, but the city can offer property tax incentives to multi-tenant buildings willing to comply. The city can also discourage vacancy with tax incentives. My team and I are exploring a vacancy tax that would work like this: If a multi-tenant building with more than 50 housing units has a unit left vacant for four or more months out of the year, it would get a minor tax increase for each unit left uninhabited. 

   Access to Medical Care

This campaign proposes that the city can have a larger role in ensuring access to health care by acting as a guide towards coverage. First, by creating a public directory of free and low-cost clinics in the Madison area available on the health department website. Next, for the city of Madison to create a video series, pretty similar to what we’re doing right here, about signing up for public health care. Finally, we should create new positions in the health department connecting citizens to affordable care covered by their insurance in the area, like college counselors but for medicine.

   Equitable Education

Finally, it’s no secret that Madison is an extremely educated city. We have an incredibly robust public school system and multiple colleges and universities are based right here. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get even better. 

In Dane County, 75% of black children live in poverty, contrasting just 5% of white children. The National Center for Education Statistics and achievement gap expert James Thindwa tells us “The number one deterrent to education is poverty.”  There are 24 schools in Madison with below-average reading proficiencies, all located along a crescent of black and brown neighborhoods. So what can we do? Let’s first make sure our children are fed. We’re proposing that the city looks into expanding the free school lunch programs in all MMSD schools. 

Pursuing your education should be encouraged once high school ends. I want to introduce three scholarship programs sponsored by the city: the Continued Education Scholarship, the Distinguished Senior Scholarship, and the Formerly Incarcerated Scholar Scholarship, all offering funds to support those pursuing two- or four-year degrees. 

 

Now, none of these proposals are in their final stage. Our campaign is based on the principle of listening first; we acknowledge that on our own we do not have all the answers. Without community collaboration, there is no way that there can be effective and lasting change, and that’s why, in the beginning, stages of this run, our biggest priority is talking to as many people as possible to identify and prioritize the needs of the district that we may not recognize. 

So, if you’re interested in any of these ideas or if you want to help us get to the finish line, reach out to me at reez@reezformadison.com.