Measures Boosting the Minimum Wage Move Forward in Many States
While Bills Advance in Minnesota and Elsewhere, Four Red States Are Poised for Minimum Wage Referenda
Republican opposition might bottle up the national minimum wage increase being pushed by the President, but the strong public support for a higher minimum wage is forcing action at the state level. Many blue states are approving substantial increases in the minimum hourly wage, and voters are putting increases on the ballot in a number of red states.
Today Minnesota became the latest state to pass a significant minimum wage increase. Within the last 24 hours, both houses approved a bill that would raise the minimum wage in the Gopher State to $8.00 per hour in August, and then in two more steps to $9.50 per hour in 2016. The increased wage would apply to businesses with more than half a million dollars in annual gross sales.
Beginning in 2017, the MN minimum wage would rise automatically with inflation, up to 2.5% a year. Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement released on Monday, April 7, that he would sign the law, which would boost wages for more than 350,000 Minnesota workers who are paid less than $9.50 an hour
Also this week, the Maryland Assembly passed a bill that will increase that state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. More than 180 business organizations and owners have signed a statement supporting the increase. Among them is Gina Schaefer, owner of nine Ace Hardware stores in Maryland and Washington DC, who said:
“There’s a lot of business support for raising the minimum wage. Paying fair wages helped our business grow fast from our first store in 2003 to nine stores and nearly 200 employees now… Fair wages help us attract and retain good employees, increase sales, expand our business and hire more employees. A higher minimum wage will mean more money circulating in our local economy, boosting consumer demand and our local tax base.”
Elsewhere this week, the Vermont House passed a bill that would increase their minimum wage to $10.10 per hour in January of next year. Shortly before that action, Connecticut approved an increase to $10.10 in 2017, and West Virginia approved a two-step increase to $8.75 per hour in January 2016.
Although GOP-controlled legislatures have not been approving minimum wage increasers, voters in some of those states may bypass their lawmakers. As a recent article on Governing.com indicates, there will be referenda to increase the minimum wage in four red states: Alaska, Arkansas, Michigan, and South Dakota.
At the start of the year, there were already 21 states with a minimum wage above the $7.25 per hour set by federal law. That number will grow substantially this year. Although conservatives in Congress might continue to block an increase in the federal minimum wage, many states aren’t waiting for Congressional action, and that wage level will continue to be the minimum in Wisconsin, the majority of Americans live in states with higher wage standards that supersede the federal law .