Looking ahead to new policies of the President-elect. Plus: the state budget deficit, jobless claims, minimum wage, pre-k in North Dakota and paid sick days

January 8, 2009 | Alex Stone

President-Elect Obama Suggests Defaulting on the National Debt: President-elect Obama apparently believes that the crisis brought on by the collapse of the housing bubble will require defaulting on the national debt. The New York Times reported today that Obama believes that “changes in Social Security and Medicare will be central to efforts to bring federal spending in line.”

Obama’s pick to lead on health care gets hearing: Showing the emphasis that some lawmakers are putting on health care issues this year, former Sen. Tom Daschle will be the first of President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet choices to undergo a hearing.

Social Security, Medicare are in Obama’s sights: President-elect Obama said Wednesday that overhauling Social Security and Medicare would be “a central part” of his administration’s attempts to contain federal spending, signaling for the first time that he would wade into the thorny politics of entitlement programs.

Republicans say tax increases should be off the table as session nears: Top Democratic lawmakers Tuesday declined to rule out pushing for higher taxes to balance the state budget, though Republicans said talking about tax increases will only delay getting down to making tough decisions about spending cuts.

Lawmakers: Focus of new session will be tackling $5.7 billion deficit: Top Republican and Democratic lawmakers agree: The looming state budget deficit will dominate the upcoming legislative session, and the hole could get worse.

A Mixed Number on Jobless Claims: The number of people continuing to seek unemployment benefits has risen sharply, according to government data released Thursday, indicating that laid-off workers are having a harder time finding new jobs as the recession enters its second year.

State minimum wage rises 6 percent in 2009: Washington state’s minimum wage increased Jan. 1 to $8.55 per hour. As with every wage increase, workers are glad to see a higher number on the right side of their paycheck while small business owners find themselves looking over their books, trying to find a way to make up the difference.

Will North Dakota Move Pre-K Forward in 2009?: Kelly Smith of the Forum in North Dakota did an excellent job of setting the stage for what could be an unprecedented push for pre-kindergarten in North Dakota.

What are paid sick days?: Paid sick days address the need for some paid time off for short-term illnesses, routine medical appointments, treatment needed due to domestic violence, and caring for sick family members. There are two paid sick day models: a minimum standard that guarantees employees a certain number of paid sick days, and a flexibility standard that allows employees to use accrued sick days to care for sick family members.

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Posted in Early Learning, Education, Health Care, Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Days, Tax and Budget, Work & Family

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