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State Takes Action to Pass Minimum Wage and Paid Family & Medical Leave

July 3, 2018


On June 28, 2018, Governor Charles Baker of Massachusetts signed into law “An Act Relative to Minimum Wage, Paid Family Medical Leave and the Sales Tax Holiday,” sometimes called the “grand bargain” law.  The Massachusetts legislature had overwhelmingly passed the bill which will provide a $15 minimum wage and enhance the State’s Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit. While there’s been little progress at the federal level, Massachusetts has taken action to advance employment-related legislation.

Under the new law the Massachusetts minimum wage will gradually increase from the current $11 per hour to $15 per hour by 2023. Additionally, the bill includes a phase-out over five years of the time-and-a-half premium pay requirement for retail workers working on Sundays and holidays. The only other state currently with plans for a minimum wage as high as $15 is California whose plan is to be implemented by 2022.

The bill also contains provisions relating to family and medical leave. Over a 3-year phase-in period, the Paid Family and Medical Leave Law would provide Massachusetts employees to 12 weeks of paid family leave, and 20 weeks of paid medical leave for a worker’s serious health condition.  These provisions will apply to all employers with one or more employees working in Massachusetts. Built-in job protections will allow paid leave to be available to eligible new employees without any hours worked or service time requirements.

The passing of this bill makes Massachusetts one of the most generous paid family leave states in the country.

Proposed Plan to Merge Education and Labor Departments

July 2, 2018


Late last week the White House released a comprehensive plan to reform and reorganize Executive Branch departments and agencies.  The document, the Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st  Century – Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations, prepared by OMB, includes a proposal to merge the Departments of Education (ED) and Labor (DOL) into a single Cabinet agency, the Department of Education and the Workforce (DEW).

The goal of merging ED and DOL is to allow the Federal Government to address the educational and skill needs of students and workers by eliminating duplication of effort and maximizing the effectiveness of skill-building efforts.

The proposed plan looks to merge all of the existing DOL and ED programs into a single department, DEW, with four main sub-agencies, focused on K-12, Higher Education/Workforce Development, Enforcement, and Research/Evaluation/Administration. In the new DEW, all of these agencies would report to one senior official to enhance the efficiency and coordination of enforcement and compliance assistance efforts.

The sub-agency of Enforcement would include worker protection agencies from DOL that are responsible for enforcing statutes relating to workers’ pay, safety, benefits, and other protections, as well as Federal workers’ compensation programs. The Agency would also include ED’s Office of Civil Rights, which is responsible for ensuring equal access to education through enforcement of civil rights in the nation’s K-12 school and higher education institutions.

The next step involves OMB and agencies beginning a dialogue with Congress over the summer to prioritize and refine the proposals. The full details of the plan can be found at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Government-Reform-and-Reorg-Plan.pdf 

Study Confirms Concern About Retirement

May 16, 2018


According to new data from Northwestern Mutual’s annual Planning & Progress Study, 78% of working Americans feel underprepared for the financial realities of retirement which seems to be driven by dramatic shortfalls in savings combined with declining confidence in Social Security. As a result, more Americans anticipate retiring at 70 years or older (38%) than in the more traditional 65-69 age range (33%).

Key findings from the study include:

  • Two-thirds of working Americans believe there is some likelihood of outliving retirement savings while nearly eight in 10 people are “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned about affording a comfortable retirement.
  • One in five or 21% of workers have no retirement savings at all
  • One in three Baby Boomers (33%), the generation closest to retirement age, only have between $0-$25,000 in retirement savings
  • Three-quarters of Americans believe it is “not at all likely” (24%) or only “somewhat likely” (51%) that Social Security will be available when they retire
  • Nearly half (46%) of adults have taken no steps to prepare for the likelihood that they could

Findings confirm that working Americans are concerned about their financial security in retirement which is a driver to why people are planning to work longer.

These results are part of an initial set of findings from the 2018 Study commissioned by Northwestern Mutual to explores Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward money, financial decision making, and the broader landscape issues impacting long-term financial security.

https://news.northwesternmutual.com/2018-05-08-1-In-3-Americans-Have-Less-Than-5-000-In-Retirement-Savings

Approach to Infrastructure Overhaul

May 1, 2018


Since March, there has been constant talk about a gradual approach to achieving President Trump’s infrastructure overhaul plan. When the White House officials initially unveiled the $200 billion infrastructure plan they did not designate the source of funding for the proposal. Many envisioned that the overhaul would come as one giant package, but now it seems that Congress will be taking a piecemeal approach, breaking the plan into a series of measures.  

First to announce this piecemeal approach was Speaker Paul Ryan at an event in Georgia back on March 12th where he affirmed the House Republicans intent on overhauling infrastructure this year through a series of multiple bills. Ryan said that the infrastructure plan would be tackled as five or six different bills which are more realistic in the upcoming midterm election year.

Just a few weeks later, President Trump was speaking to local workers in Ohio about his infrastructure plan and noted that the plan “can be passed in one bill, or in a series of measures.” Trump acknowledged that Congress might not have the eagerness for a giant overhaul of the country’s infrastructure but stated that “what matters, is that we get the job done.”

Further reinforcement came at the end of March when White House Economist Kevin Hassett spoke about the approach to Trump’s infrastructure plan. Hassett acknowledged that Congress might indeed want to tackle things little by little, an approach that is doable, but it will also mean that every time Congress legislates, they will be looked upon for achieving infrastructural progress even in the smallest of forms.

 

The Doubt Of The Benefit

April 5, 2018


How quality, competitive benefits packages can attract & retain valuable employees

 

Pain points—every industry has them. And, at times, it might feel like contractors have more than their fair share.

Contractors who work on prevailing wage jobs undoubtedly see the complex regulations that apply to these projects as a burden they learn to live with in order to benefit from the opportunities presented by government-funded jobs. For example, there’s the sometimes confusing question of how to handle the fringe cost on government jobs.

Today, your employees may want the fringe amount paid in cash. However, is that a decision you both will regret later on? Could you win more jobs for them to work on by putting the fringe amount of the wage determination toward benefits, which lowers your job costs and makes your bids more competitive?

Click the link below to read more:

JP_CBO_Article_April_18

December 2017 Construction Spending

February 21, 2018


The U.S. Census Bureau announced construction spending increased for December 2017 at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,253.3 billion, 0.7 percent above the revised November estimate. It was also up 2.6 percent from December 2016, and construction in 2017 was $1,230.6 billion, up 3.8 percent from $1,185.7 billion in 2016. 

While private construction spending was $963.2 billion, 0.8 percent above the revised November estimate of $955.9 billion; public construction spending was $290.0 billion, which is up 0.3 percent above last month’s revised estimates of $289.1 billion.

Educational construction spending is one of the main contributors to the public construction increase, which was at the adjusted annual rate of $75.5 billion, 1.6 percent above the revised November estimate. Highway construction which was also up to  $88.3 billion, a 0.3 percent increase from revised November estimate.

In 2017, the value of public construction was $279.8, a 2.5 percent decrease from 2016. However educational construction in 2017 was $ 71.2 billion, 2.5 percent above the 2016 figure of $ 69.5 billion.  

More information may be found at: https://www.census.gov/construction/c30/pdf/release.pdf

 

State of the Union; Addresses Infrastructure Plan

February 1, 2018


In his State of the Union Address, President Trump talked about his Infrastructure Plan, calling on Congress to come together to give Americans a safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure that our economy needs. 

Trump emphasized that the bill would generate at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment and that every dollar would be leveraged by partnering with State and local Governments, and where appropriate, would tap into private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.

The funding approach is consistent with what White House Officials shared back in December; a 10-year, $200 billion plan meant to leverage about $1 trillion worth of overall infrastructure investment expected to go towards the nation’s roads and bridges. The goal is to generate hundreds of billions more from local governments and private investors for U.S. road, rail, water and utility work.

Trump also remarked that a major problem today is the approval processes and said that any infrastructure bill must address the need to streamline the permitting and approval process; reducing it down to two years or less.

Trump’s Infrastructure plan is expected to be issued by early spring. For any bill to move forward, it will need to be a bipartisan effort to get the necessary 60 votes from the Senate. Currently, the potential of a plan going forward looks promising as both parties appear in support of such a Bill.

Education Construction Spending Is Up

January 22, 2018


The U.S. Census Bureau announced construction spending for November 2017 was up at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,257.0 billion, 0.8 percent above the revised October estimate. It was also up 2.4 percent from November 2016, and during the first eleven months of this year, construction spending amounted to $1,138.3 billion, 4.2 percent above the $1,091.9 billion for the same period in 2016.

While private constructions spending was 1.0 percent above the revised October estimate of $955.1 billion; public construction spending was $292.7 billion which is up 0.2 percent above last month’s revised estimates of $292.0 billion.  

One of the main contributors to the public construction spending growth in November came from educational construction which was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $78.8 billion, 3.8 percent above the revised October estimate of $75.9 billion and up 12.0 percent from a year ago.

More information may be found at: https://www.census.gov/construction/c30/pdf/release.pdf

White House To Unveil Infrastructure Plan Come January 2018

December 19, 2017


According to White House Officials, President Trump is expected to unveil his infrastructure plan shortly after Republicans pass a tax reform bill, which the GOP hopes to have completed before the end of the year. Though specifics of the program are not yet known, the administration supposedly has developed a 70-page document that would serve as the guiding policy for the infrastructure legislation come January.

 D.J. Gribbin, the president’s adviser on infrastructure previewed a few details with an audience at the Hudson Institute on Dec. 12 affirming that states will be asked to invest heavily in projects of regional significance. Meaning if a state or local elected official would be willing to create a new revenue stream for infrastructure, the federal government, in turn, would partner with them in doing that. Gribbin also mentioned that the plan would accelerate the permitting process of construction projects and would pave the way for more toll roads.

The administrations’ 70-page document reportedly breaks down a 10-year, $200 billion plan meant to spark $800 billion in private sector investments. Federal dollars are expected to be put towards the nation’s roads and bridges, with a goal of generating the hundreds of billions more from local governments and private investors for U.S. road, rail, water and utility work.

 

Measuring Adequacy Of Retirement Income

November 22, 2017


In October, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report Measuring the Adequacy of Retirement Income; A Primer. Intended to explain the various measures and approaches that researchers apply today and to provide a framework for the additional analysis of adequate retirement income.

While the report focuses on the different measures and approaches; it did find that overall, across the studies, the share of current workers who were at risk of having inadequate income ranged from about one-third to two-thirds.

The report presented a framework for future analysis of the adequacy of retirement income and was prepared at the request of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget. As directed, the CBO’s report provides objective and impartial analysis but does not make any recommendations.

Here is a link to the report; https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/reports/53191-retirementadequacy.pdf