Business & Economy
Labor Day Report – America’s Middle Class Needs Our Help PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 10:59

As the nation prepares to honor America’s workers this weekend, I wanted to share a report I released today on the decline of America’s middle class and its long-term consequences for our economy.  As you’ll see in the report, the problems plaguing the middle class and the broader economy were not brought on just by this recession, but rather through a series of systematic policy decisions put into place over the past 40 years.  I believe that rebuilding the middle class needs to be the primary focus of the Congress and that it can only be done by reversing these policy choices.

All the talk in Washington about deficits and spending cuts ignores one simple truth: there will be no sustainable economic recovery without the recovery of the American middle class.  Without good-paying jobs with reliable benefits, families will continue to fall behind, and the economy will lag as consumers struggle to survive on shrinking budgets.

As Congress finally turns its focus to how to create jobs and rebuild our economy, we must understand that as the middle class goes, so goes our economy.

Today’s report follows a series of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearings I’ve convened to examine the state of the middle class.  We’ve solicited input from economists, the business community, and everyday Americans struggling to maintain a middle class lifestyle.  In Iowa, members of my staff have been visiting all 99 counties to gather testimony and insights into the challenges facing middle class families, and I have followed up by holding forums this August in Newton, Mason City, Cedar Rapids, and Council Bluffs.

To read my report, entitled “Saving the American Dream: The Past, Present, and Uncertain Future of America's Middle Class,” and learn more about my HELP Committee hearings and my forums in Iowa, click here:

The report shows that the middle class is facing stagnant wages while household costs continue to rise:

  • Average hourly wages declined by 1% from 1970 to 2009, while home prices have increased 97%, gas prices by 18%, health costs by 50%, and public college by 80% after adjusting both wages and costs for inflation.
  • The average family of four needs an annual income of $68,000/year just to cover basic costs, but in 2010, half of all jobs paid less than $33,840, and 9 of the 10 fastest-growing sectors in the American economy pay less than $35,000/year on average

While there is no silver bullet to repair the damage done to the middle class by 40 years of poor policy choices, I believe there are several steps the federal government should take to create jobs in the short term and restore our middle class and economic vitality in the long term:

  • Help 25 million unemployed and underemployed Americans get good jobs and become taxpayers again by investing in education, innovation, and a national program to rebuild our nation’s schools, highways, bridges, and water infrastructure.
  • Restore balance to the tax code by removing the tax benefits received by the very wealthy and large corporations from the 2001 and 2003 tax bills.
  • Remove the provisions in the tax code that encourage American companies shifting jobs overseas.
  • Raise and index the minimum wage to improve wage standards throughout the economy and ensure working people aren’t left out when our economy grows.
  • Give workers the same rights as corporate CEOs to negotiate their salaries and benefits from a position of strength, not weakness.
  • Update the federal laws governing the pension system so that they can once again provide the basis for a secure retirement.

Governor Quinn Convenes Budget Reform Commission PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Katelyn Tye   
Tuesday, 23 August 2011 10:25

Group of Budget Experts Will Recommend Steps to Implement Budgeting for Results; Bring Greater Accountability and Transparency to Budget Process  

CHICAGO – August 22, 2011. In a key step in reforming the state’s budget process, a commission named by Governor Quinn held its first meeting Friday in Chicago to help guide the implementation of Budgeting for Results. Enacted last year by the General Assembly, Budgeting for Results (BFR) is a tool to help government agencies set priorities, meet goals, deliver excellent services and achieve the best value possible to taxpayers.  

“Budgeting for Results represents a major step toward smarter, more transparent government and greater accountability across all agencies,” Governor Quinn said. “This commission will help Illinois deliver essential services in the most efficient, effective way possible, and ensure that taxpayers are getting the results from government they expect and deserve.”  

Private business has long employed a similar management model to improve performance through clearly defining and aligning objectives across organizations. Rather than setting budgets for each agency separately and based on historical funding levels, BFR allocates scarce resources based on government-wide goals. BFR calls on every agency of government to make the case for its budget each year measured in terms of its success delivering results and value to the people of Illinois. The budgeting shift will encourage innovation and performance among agencies, and allow taxpayers to see the true impact of their tax dollars.   

For the fiscal year 2012 budget, the first year of BFR, agencies and departments were required to justify budget requests based on results achieved in the following priority areas set by the Governor:  

 1.     Quality education and opportunities for growth and learning for all Illinois students;  

 2.     Enhanced economic well-Being of citizens;  

 3.     Protection of citizens’ lives and property;  

 4.     Protection of the most vulnerable of our citizens;  

 5.     Improved quality of life of citizens; and  

 6.     Improved efficiency and stability of state government.  

The commission will make recommendations on the Governor’s priority areas and proposed outcomes, propose a percentage of the overall budget to be assigned to each results area, and review current spending mandates.

The commission is composed of Illinois legislators, executive staff, outside experts and stakeholders. Senator Dan Kotowski (D–Park Ridge) serves as chairman of the commission and was co-sponsor of legislation enabling Budgeting for Results.

“I am honored to be appointed chairman of the Budgeting for Results commission,” Sen. Kotowski said. “This bipartisan commission will implement a framework to cut, eliminate, reform and fund agencies and programs based on performance, not politics and self-interest. Illinois families live by these principles every day and now the state government will as well.”

The other commission members are:

Hon. Sheila Simon, Lieutenant Governor;

State Senator Tony Munoz (D – Chicago);

State Senator Pam Althoff (R – Crystal Lake);

State Representative Will Davis (D – Hazel Crest);

State Representative Kent Gaffney (R – Lake Barrington);

Hon. Will Burns, Alderman, City of Chicago;

John Bouman, President, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law;

Carole Brown, Managing Director, Barclays Capital;

Larry Joseph, Director, Budget and Tax Policy, Voices for Illinois Children;

Jim Lewis, Senior Program Officer, Chicago Community Trust;

Lyle Logan, Vice President, Northern Trust Bank;

Dr. Roger Myerson, Glen A. Lloyd Professor of Economics, University of Chicago;

Maria de Jesus Prado, President, Prado & Renteria;

Alex Rorke, Co-chair, Illinois Economic Recovery Commission;

Jose Sanchez, CEO and President, Norwegian American Hospital;

Steve Schnorf, Budget Consultant;

Kevin Semlow, Director of Legislative Affairs, Illinois Farm Bureau and;

Donna Sims Wilson, Executive Vice President, Castleoak Securities.

“It is a privilege to serve the state of Illinois on the new Budgeting for Results Commission,” Roger Myerson, Noble Prize winning economist said. “This commission reflects a broad commitment by Governor Quinn and the legislature to improve the process by which this state makes tough fiscal choices. We will work to develop better measurements of government performance and budgetary transparency.”

"The appointed Commissioners are a good cross-section of private and public sector individuals,” Rep. Kent Gaffney (R-Lake Barrington) said. “The task ahead will become more difficult as we work towards a plan to allocate scarce state funds in a manner that will improve the business climate and overall economic situation of our state, while also improving the quality of life for Illinoisans.”

Appointees from the Governor’s executive staff are Cristal Thomas, Deputy Governor, and John Kamis, Senior Advisor to the Governor.

The commission will issue a report the Governor and the General Assembly by Nov. 1 each year, starting in 2011.



Braley, Harkin Hold Roundtable Discussion on Rebuilding Iowa’s Middle Class PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Kira Ayish   
Tuesday, 23 August 2011 10:18

Washington, DC –

Today, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Sen. Tom Harkin hosted a roundtable discussion in Cedar Rapids focusing on rebuilding Iowa’s middle class. 

The event brought together a cross-section of Iowans to discuss a variety of ideas to encourage growth of the middle class. The diverse group of Iowans included college students nearing graduation, unemployed Iowans looking for work, and Iowans looking for ways to secure their retirement.  The conversation focused around the need for increased workforce training for those people who are transitioning into new fields and the need to sustain reliable, middle-class jobs. 

“The middle class is shrinking and this is a problem we cannot ignore,” said Rep. Braley. “Iowa’s economy has lost 600 manufacturers and over 43,000 manufacturing jobs in the last decade.  We cannot afford to continue to lose these types of reliable, good-paying jobs and Iowan’s deserve the opportunity to work in an economy that provides these types of jobs.”

“I am encouraged to take what I heard from Iowan’s today back to Washington and work with my colleagues to create jobs and strengthen the economy for working class families.”  

Congressman Braley is chairman of the Populist Caucus, which is working to highlight middle class values and reinvest in American manufacturing.


Governor Quinn Creates Women’s Advisory Council PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Katelyn Tye   
Friday, 19 August 2011 08:33

Will Focus on Strengthening Women’s Role in Illinois’ Economic Recovery

CHICAGO - August 18, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today announced the creation of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Women, with the goal of strengthening the participation of women in Illinois’ economic recovery.

“Women entrepreneurs are helping to drive the economic growth of our state. This advisory council will make sure we are eliminating barriers so they can reach their full potential as workers, employers and business owners,” Governor Quinn said. “The women on this council have dedicated their lives to these issues, and I thank them for their service.” 

Co-chaired by Deputy Governor Cristal Thomas and Judy Gold, a nationally-recognized women’s advocate, the volunteer council will be composed of non-elected female leaders from a variety of cultural, economic and professional backgrounds. The council will work to advance the role and participation of women in Illinois’ economy and recovery.

The council will also work to increase the number of women in the engineering, science and technology fields, and support the development and growth of women-owned business enterprises. The council will recommend policy solutions to remove barriers to women in the workforce. It will examine issues that initially include pay inequities, financial literacy, child care, access to capital for small business owners, workforce development and job training, and educational opportunities.

“Women are a critical part of our economy and are playing an important role in our economic recovery.” Thomas said. “I’m honored that Governor Quinn has asked me to co-chair this advisory council.” 

“Governor Quinn has a proven record of supporting issues important to women and girls. I commend him for that commitment and for establishing a women’s council.” Gold said. “I look forward to working with him, Deputy Governor Thomas and these committed appointees on this important project." 

The members of the council are: Cristal Thomas, deputy governor; Judy Gold, a partner at Perkins Coie; Nancy Chen, former Region V director of the U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau; Judy Rice, a vice-president at Harris Bank; Maria Pasquiera, president of Mujeras Latinas en Accion; Hedy Ratner, co-president of the Women’s Business Development Center; Juliette Pryor, executive vice president, general counsel and chief ethics officer of U.S. Foodservice; and Amy Hilliard, president and chief executive officer of the Comfort Cake Company.

The council, which will meet at least four times over the next year, will make recommendations to the Governor on legislative and policy issues important to women and girls across Illinois.


Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to Hold Rural Forum TOMORROW at the Iowa State Fair to Discuss Jobs and Economic Opportunities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Friday, 19 August 2011 08:13

DES MOINES, IA, August 18, 2011- Tomorrow, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold a White House Rural Forum at the Iowa State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.  As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack will discuss the Rural Council’s new policy recommendations, which focus on key areas of need in rural America including helping rural small businesses access capital, expanding rural job search and training services, and increasing rural access to health care workers and technology.

Friday’s event follows on President Obama’s White House Rural Economic Forum today in Peosta, IA, and allows attendees at the Iowa State Fair to participate in a Rural Forum.  Secretary Vilsack will give a recap of what was discussed with President Obama today.

Friday, August 19, 2011
10:00 a.m. CDT

WHAT: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will hold a Rural Forum with businesses leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders  to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.

WHERE: Iowa State Fair
Penningroth Media Center in the Cattle Barn
Des Moines, IA


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