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Officials announce anti-poverty proposals on anniversary of King's death

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Officials announce anti-poverty proposals on anniversary of King's death

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Officials announce anti-poverty proposals on anniversary of King's death
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thursday, April 4, 2019

By Kate Giammarise

Flanked by a large mural of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., on the anniversary of his assassination, officials on Thursday said they intend to roll out a series of poverty-fighting legislative proposals in the coming month. 

“We’re going to work specifically to combat poverty, but also address economic insecurity,” state Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said at the event titled “Call to Action on the Crisis of Poverty and Economic Insecurity.”

He said state Senate Democrats intend to emphasize proposals that would increase the state’s minimum wage, bolster child care and early learning programs, tackle food insecurity, and provide job training.

Republicans control the state Senate and House; in the Senate there are 26 Republicans and there will be 22 Democrats after newly elected Pam Iovino is sworn in. There are two vacancies.

In Growing Up Through the Cracks, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is examining how concentrated child poverty harms kids, families and communities, particularly communities in which half or more of the kids live in poverty.

Kadida Kenner, campaign director for the We the People Campaign, who spoke at the event, said her group’s top priority is raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“Constituents in this part of Pennsylvania can’t wait any longer for $15 an hour,” she said.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has called for raising the wage to $12 an hour initially, and then up to $15 by 2025. Republicans in the state Senate have said they wouldn’t support a $15 wage but have signaled support for a more modest increase.

Several speakers Thursday invoked the 51st anniversary of Rev. King’s assassination, his work on behalf of striking sanitation workers when he was killed in 1968, and his Poor People’s Campaign that sought economic changes.

“Many of us have been fighting this fight for 50-plus years,” said T. Rashad Byrdsong of the Community Empowerment Association.

Also in attendance were state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington; state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District; Allegheny County Councilman DeWitt Walton; Pamela Macklin, Wilkinsburg council president; and Ashley Comans, a Wilkinsburg school board director.

Thursday’s event in Wilkinsburg was one of several statewide, along with events in Philadelphia, Scranton and Reading. 

Kate Giammarise: kgiammarise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909.

[This article was originally published by the Post Gazette.]