State legislature to discuss equal pay bill

Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2017

The 2017 Mississippi Legislative session began this week, and while some state legislators are saying this year’s agenda won’t focus as much on social issues, one bill that has already been sent to committees requests equal pay.

The issue of women receiving equal pay for equal work was a prominent part of the national spotlight in 2016, and some Mississippi lawmakers are once again pushing for the state to take action.

According to several news reports, this year’s bill calling for equal pay was named after the late former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy, who was the first woman elected to a statewide office as treasurer.

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She was also the first female insurance commissioner and the first woman in the U.S. to serve as a lieutenant governor.

According to the Clarion-Ledger, similar bills have been proposed to the state legislature as far back as 1997, but all have died, including two during the 2016 session.

According to U.S. Census reports, full-time, female employees in Mississippi make 77 percent of the average male income. That equates to a wage gap of more than $9,000 a year, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

The Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative is making this issue a priority for the ongoing legislative session, stating women make up 50 percent of the workforce and two-thirds of minimum wage earners.

According to that organization, attaining higher levels of education only widens the wage gap.

Equal pay is one of many economic, tax, revenue and social issues being proposed during the 2017 session.

Many of these issues will go hand-in-hand, but focusing on the big picture, in addition to the smaller cogs and wheels, will move Mississippi forward.

Citizens and lawmakers should pay close attention to how passing one piece of legislation will affect another.

Increasing wages by requiring equal pay could, in effect, raise the average salary for tax-paying Mississippi residents.

Doing so could thereby increase revenue generated by income tax, giving the state more funding to distribute to various departments or infrastructure investments.