Analysis Politics

Minimum Wage in Five States Could Look Vastly Different After Election Day

Teddy Wilson

Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota will decide ballot measures, also known as initiatives or issues, on Election Day to increase those states’ minimum wage.

Voters in 42 states on Election Day will decide an assortment of ballot measures, also known as initiatives or issues, that cover various largely polarizing political issues. Voters in five states—Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota—will decide ballot measures to increase those states’ minimum wage.

Each measure would increase the minimum wage above the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but how far above that threshold and the timeline for the increases vary by state.

Illinois is the only state of the five where the ballot measure is not legally binding. The ballot measure would only advise the state legislature to take action and increase the minimum wage. The Minimum Wage Increase Question would potentially lead lawmakers to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 per hour.

If each measure is passed (and Illinois lawmakers acts on their constituents’ advice), it would increase the pay of at least 680,000 low-wage workers in those states, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.

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Only two states, Alaska and South Dakota, include language on the ballot measures that would mandate an annual increase in the minimum wage to adjust for inflation. South Dakota is the only state in which the measure also addresses workers whose wages are made through gratuity or tips.

Each measure was placed on the ballot through a ballot initiative process, with the exception of Illinois. In order for the measures to qualify to be placed on the ballot, activists in the four states gathered and verified a total of more than 200,000 signatures.

There are organized campaigns and political action committees actively working to support the measures in each state, but there is no similar organized opposition to the minimum wage measures. While there is a partisan divide between supporters and opponents, Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate in both Alaska and Arkansas have voiced their support for boosting low wages.

Alaska Ballot Measure 3

In Alaska, Ballot Measure 3 would increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour beginning January 1. The minimum wage would be increased again to $9.75 per hour a year later. The state’s minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation or increased by $1 over the federal minimum wage—whichever is higher.

While the median household income is above the national average and the percentage of residents living in poverty is also below the national average, the cost of living in Alaska is significantly higher than most other states. Alaska has the fourth highest cost of living in the United States, behind only Hawaii, New York, and Connecticut, according to a report by the Department of Labor.

Republicans in the state house last spring introduced and passed HB 384, which would have increased the minimum wage to $9 per hour on July 1, and to $10 per hour in 2015. Even though the bill would have increased the minimum wage by more than the ballot measure, Democrats opposed it because they claimed Republicans would simply repeal the law the next year as they had done before.

Alaskan Republicans passed a bill in 2002 to mandate that the state’s minimum wage increase with inflation. That same year Democrats had successfully placed a measure on the ballot to increase the minimum wage. Once the legislation was passed, the measure was by law forced to be removed from the ballot. The next year, Republicans passed legislation to remove the inflation adjustment from the minimum wage.

When the legislative session was adjourned in April, HB 384 died in the state Senate Finance Committee.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D) has come out in favor of raising the state’s minimum wage, and has also co-sponsored legislation to increase the federal minimum wage. Begich’s Republican opponent Dan Sullivan initially opposed the minimum wage increase, but later changed course to support the measure.

A Public Policy Polling poll found that 58 percent of Alaskans surveyed support the measure to increase the minimum wage.

Arkansas Issue 5

The $6.25 per hour minimum wage in Arkansas is lower than the federal minimum wage, but is superseded by federal law. Issue 5 would increase the state’s minimum wage to $7.50 per hour on January 1. It would also increase the minimum wage twice more, to $8 per hour on January 1, 2016 and to $8.50 per hour on January 1, 2017.

Arkansas has the fourth highest percentage of residents living in poverty. The median household income, over the past decade, has been among the lowest in the nation, and has seen little improvement.

The ballot measure survived a court challenge, as the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday that it could remain on the ballot. Little Rock businessman Jackson T. Stephens challenged the measure on the grounds that the deadline to submit signatures was not met and that signatures submitted by supporters were invalid.

Stephens owns one of the largest private investment banks in the country and is board chairman of the conservative Club for Growth, a 501(c)4 that endorses and campaigns for far-right candidates.

Federal Election Commission filings show that since 2010, Stephens has contributed $1.4 million to the Club for Growth Action independent-expenditure super PAC.

The Club for Growth endorsed Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle) for U.S. Senate in Arkansas and launched attack ads against incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D). Cotton has received more than $546,000 in campaign contributions from the Club for Growth, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Pryor and other Arkansas Democrats have made increasing the minimum wage a focal point of the campaign. Pryor criticized Cotton for his lack of support for measure. Cotton, who voted against increasing the federal minimum wage, announced his support for the measure, effectively blunting Pryor’s criticism.

Nebraska Initiative 425

Nebraska’s Initiative 425 would increase the state’s hourly minimum wage to $9 per hour over two years. The minimum wage would be increased from $7.25 per hour to $8.00 per hour on January 1, and then increase to $9.00 per hour at the start of 2016.

If passed, it will be the first time the state’s minimum wage was higher than the federal minimum wage.

The median household income in the state is just below the national average, but the percentage of residents living in poverty is also below the national average. Supporters of the measure claim the increase is needed in part because Nebraska had the second highest percent of hourly workers at or below minimum wage when compared with surrounding states.

Opponents this fall held a press conference and outlined their opposition to Initiative 425. They claim it would increase costs for small business and do little to help the working poor. The press conference was organized by the Platte Institute for Economic Research, a conservative think tank headquartered in Omaha that promotes right-wing economic policies.

The founder of the Platte Institute is Pete Ricketts, the Republican candidate for governor. Ricketts’ father, Joe Ricketts, is the founder of the online brokerage firm Ameritrade, and the founder of Ending Spending Action Fund, a 501(c)4 that has spent millions over the last few years supporting conservative candidates.

Ricketts has opposed raising the minimum wage on the campaign trail, while Chuck Hassebrook, the Democratic nominee for governor, supports raising the minimum wage.

South Dakota Measure 18

Measure 18 would increase the minimum wage in South Dakota from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour beginning January 1. It would also mandate an increase in the minimum wage each year to adjust for inflation. Workers who earn wages through tips would also see a wage increase, as the measure would increase their hourly pay from $2.13 to $4.25 per hour.

One in six employed South Dakota workers would likely see an increase in their wages if the minimum wage were raised, according to an analysis by the South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute. The analysis also found that one in seven children in the state have at least one parent that would be affected by the minimum wage increase.

The Lincoln Journal-Star endorsed voting for Measure 18, because the benefit of increasing the minimum wage outweighed the possible negative impact.

“Fears of negative economic impacts have proved exaggerated in the past when the minimum wage was increased,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote.

Measure 18 appears to have significant support from South Dakota voters, as 60 percent of likely voters said they support the minimum wage increase, according to a recent SurveyUSA poll. Twenty-eight percent oppose the increase and 13 percent are undecided.

News Economic Justice

Colorado Voters Could Get a Chance to Boost the State’s Minimum Wage

Jason Salzman

A campaign fact sheet cited an April survey showing that 59 percent of the 2,400 U.S. small businesses polled favor raising the minimum wage, and that about 40 percent of those polled already pay entry-level employees "far above" the required minimum wage in their location.

Colorado’s minimum wage would increase from $8.31 to $12 by 2020 if Colorado voters approve a ballot initiative that could be headed to the November ballot.

Patty Kupfer, campaign manager for Colorado Families for a Fair Wage told reporters Monday that Colorado Families for a Fair Wage, a coalition of groups, submitted more than 200,000 signatures to the Colorado secretary of state, more than double the number required to make the ballot.

Hundreds of volunteers and dozens of organizations collected signatures, Kupfer said.

“Raising the minimum wage is fair and it’s smart,” Kupfer said. “It’s fair because people working full time should earn enough to support their families. It’s smart because when working people have more money in their pockets, they spend it here in Colorado, boosting our economy and helping our community thrive.”

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Speaking at the news conference staged in front of stacked boxes of petitions, Marrisa Guerrero, identified as a certified nursing assistant, said she works seven days a week and still relies on subsidized housing.

“Making $300 a week is not enough to pay rent and buy groceries for a family like mine,” said Guerrero, adding that she’d “really like” to see an increase in the minimum immediately, but “2020 would work wonders.”

After 2020, the state’s minimum wage would be adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases under the initiative.

Tyler Sandberg, a spokesperson for Keep Colorado Working, an organization opposing the initiative, appeared at the news conference and told reporters that he was “especially” worried about the initiative’s impact on small businesses.

“The big corporations, the wealthy areas of Denver and Boulder, might be able to afford [it], but small businesses, rural and poor communities, cannot afford this,” Sandberg told reporters. “So you are going to put people out of work with this. You’re going to harm the same people you’re trying to help.”

“It’s one size that doesn’t fit all. It’s the same for a small business as it is for Pepsi Cola,” said Sandberg, whose organization includes the Colorado Restaurant Association, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, and the National Association of Independent Business.

Asked by Rewire to respond to Sandberg’s argument against a higher wage, Kupfer said, “Research shows small businesses support increasing the minimum wage. The truth is, when workers make more, that means more customers in local Colorado businesses. Both in rural and urban parts of the state, when working people do well, our communities thrive.”

A campaign fact sheet cited an April survey showing that 59 percent of the 2,400 U.S. small businesses polled favor raising the minimum wage, and that about 40 percent of those polled already pay entry-level employees “far above” the required minimum wage in their location.

“In my company, we have customer service representatives being paid $15 per hour,” Yoav Lurie, founder of Simple Energy, told reporters at the news conference. “While others might choose to pay customer service reps minimum wage, we have found that higher pay leads to improved performance and better retention and better customer satisfaction.”

Workers who rely on tips would see their minimum hourly wage increase by about 70 percent, from $5.29 to $8.98, while other workers would get a 44 percent increase by 2020. The initiative states that “no more than $3.02 in tip income may be used to offset the minimum wage of employees who regularly receive tips.”

Colorado passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 that bumped the minimum wage to $6.85. It’s been raised according to inflation since then.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and has not been increased since 2009.

Colorado’s Republican legislators killed legislation this year to allow cities to raise the minimum wage.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?