Second Decade Campaign charts
Vermont’s minimum hourly wage over 40 years ago—almost $9.50 in 1970, in 2012 dollars—was worth a dollar more than the 2012 wage. In 2005, Vermont became one of a few states to tie its minimum wage to inflation.* This policy has helped low-wage workers but has not made up the ground lost in the 1970s and 1980s.
* Each Jan. 1, the minimum wage rises by the same percentage as the CPI or by 5 percent, whichever is smaller. The law prohibits a downward adjustment of the wage.
As a percentage of the Vermont economy, education spending has remained remarkably steady since the early 1990s. Should it be dropping along with the 1 percent yearly decline in enrollment? Perhaps. But remember: Education costs include health care, whose growth until recently has far outpaced the economy’s. Regardless of the number of pupils, Vermont’s public education costs are neither “skyrocketing” nor “out of control.”
Even with the recession, Vermont’s economy grew from 2002 to 2012. The gross state product was up 14 percent. Total personal income for the state also grew.* However, income for the typical household fell. Median household income—half of households made less, half more—fell 5.5 percent during the decade.
* The statewide sum of income from all sources, including wages, salaries, benefits and bonuses, investments and proprietors’ business income, and government transfer payments to individuals, such as Social Security.
For 50 years after the Great Depression, Vermont’s gap between rich and poor shrank. The share of total income going to the top 1 percent declined from 14 percent in 1929 to 6 percent in 1981. But since then, we’ve wiped out our progress toward income equality. The share going to the wealthiest 1 percent peaked at over 20 percent in 2006.