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By Chris Opfer
Nov. 5 — Voters in five states passed initiatives to raise the minimum wage Nov. 4, adding to the growing number of jurisdictions in which mandatory pay floors exceed the federal level.
The new minimum wages range from $8.50 an hour in Arkansas and South Dakota to $9 in Nebraska and $9.75 in Alaska. Voters in Illinois also approved a non-binding referendum asking state lawmakers to consider bumping the minimum wage to $10.
As a result of the ballot initiatives, a total of 23 states already or will soon have wage floors above the $7.25-per-hour rate mandated under federal law. Legislation (S. 2223) that would have increased the federal minimum wage to $10.10 stalled in the Senate earlier this year.
Congressional Republicans have largely opposed raising the wage floor, arguing that it will force employers to cut jobs. Minimum wage proposals are likely to face an uphill climb in both the House and Senate, as Republicans gained a majority in each chamber in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
President Barack Obama told reporters Nov. 5 that the success of the state ballot initiatives should help convince lawmakers that voters largely support increasing wages.
“In the five states where a minimum wage increase was on the ballot last night, voters went five-for-five to increase it,” the president said. “That should give us new reason to get it done for everybody with a national increase in the minimum wage.”
The minimum wage hikes will be implemented in varying schedules, depending on the state. Some of the initiatives also provide for future inflation-based increases.
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