State and Local Policy Publications

Below is a list of our reports related to state and local publications, in descending order by year published. Explore other topics here and all COWS reports here.

  • Laura Dresser, and Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez. Can’t Survive on $7.25: Higher Minimum Wages for Working Wisconsin. COWS, 2023.

    For 15 years, Wisconsin’s minimum wage has been stuck at the federal minimum level of $7.25, which has not been raised since 2009. A higher and well enforced minimum wage helps build a floor that allows workers, employers, and our communities to thrive. In this report, we offer a picture of who wins in Wisconsin with higher minimum wages and some reasons to support higher labor standards for the state. A stronger floor is necessary and possible in Wisconsin. Workers can’t survive on $7.25. It is time to raise the floor.

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  • Laura Dresser, Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez, and Adam Kanter. The Crisis in Milwaukee’s Service Industry. COWS, 2022.

    There’s a crisis in service work in Milwaukee. Too many of these jobs—in food service, janitorial work, security services, and human and health services—offer low wages, inadequate and often unpredictable hours, and benefits packages that are usually weak, if they exist at all. For Milwaukee, these jobs have been a sorry replacement for the good union manufacturing jobs that once defined opportunity in the city. This economic transformation has especially damaged Milwaukee’s Black community, resulting in extreme racial disparity.

    All of this was well documented before COVID-19. In the last two years, the underlying crisis in these jobs has been exposed and it has grown. Until we build a strong, consistent floor of better wages, more predictable hours, and stronger benefits in these jobs, the crisis will continue.

    The City of Milwaukee can help to lead this effort. In every aspect of policy, the City can seek to strengthen job quality, raise labor standards, and support and build a high-road approach to service work in the city.

  • $15 by 2025: Who Gains with a Higher Minimum Wage in Wisconsin is a short fact sheet about the demographics of who would benefit from raising the minimum wage by 2025 and how Wisconsin compares to other states on this issue.

  • Joel Rogers. Biden’s Task and Ours. Vol. 50, no. 4, Social Policy, 2020, p. 9.
  • City leaders, including mayors, play a critical role in community wealth building and are this brief’s intended audience. However, this work requires multiple actors, including community organizers and developers. This brief is useful to anyone committed to equitable economic development in their community but is intended primarily for city leaders. This report was made possible by generous funding from the Surdna Foundation.

  • Joel Rogers, Kevin Knutson, and Mike Bell. Productive Places in a Post-Pandemic Era: A Roadmap for Cities and Counties. Envisio Blog, 2020.
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  • Joel Rogers. How About Productive Democracy for a Change. no. 1, Social Policy, 2020, pp. 19-25.
  • Matthew Braunginn, Ceri Jenkins, and Mariah Young-Jones. Setting the Agenda: A Mayor’s Guide to Water Affordability. Mayors Innovation Project, 2019.

    Aging water infrastructure systems, climate change, and the general rising cost of urban living mean that access to clean and affordable water is becoming a greater challenge. Cities and water utilities are increasingly faced with a major financial dilemma: increase rates to update infrastructure and price out ratepayers, or keep rates static at the expense of aging and failing infrastructure. At the fulcrum of this choice sits those most vulnerable to increases in rates: low-to-moderate income households, which are disproportionately made up of women and/or people of color.

  • Ceri Jenkins, and Mariah Young-Jones. Actionable Solutions for Public Water Systems. Mayors Innovation Project, 2019.

    From climate change to outdated infrastructure to lack of federal support, city leaders face more pressure than ever to provide affordable and safe water to residents. Mayors and city leaders need the resources to plan for and improve and maintain public water systems. This report outlines concrete actions a city can take to keep control of its water systems and provides a background to understanding the complexity of public water systems and their current challenges. The solutions for managing robust public systems include topics such as: integrating management approaches for water with other goals; engaging the public in conversations about this valuable resource; promoting affordability of water services; among many more.

  • Matthew Braunginn, Erica DePalma, Howard Neukrug, Satya Rhodes-Conway, and Mariah Young-Jones. Basic Water Utility Management. Mayors Innovation Project, 2019.

    Access to safe and affordable drinking water is a human right, and it is the duty of the water utility to ensure that this right is protected and upheld. Understanding the different ways water intersects with your city is critical. Basic Water Utility Management provides local leaders with a foundation for understanding their local water systems, including: understanding what a successful water system looks like; getting up to speed on government compliance; identifying infrastructure and maintenance needs; and engaging with community members around water resources.