Five states will be voting on whether or not to increase minimum wages in next Tuesday’s election. Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota will all decide whether or not minimum wages will need to be raised. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
Each state is approaching the issue in a slightly different manner. Alaska and Illinois’ minimum wages are already above the federal level, while Arkansas is currently lower. Nebraska and South Dakota are set to the federal minimum.
Alaska’s would increase from $7.75 by $1.00 per hour next year, then another $1.00 in 2016. They would then have the third highest minimum wage in the nation at $9.25, behind only Washington state ($9.32) and Washington D.C. ($9.50). Nebraska would follow a similar schedule, going from the current rate of $7.25 to $8.00 next year and $9.00 in 2016. Nebraska has an existing rule, however, that would exempt employers with fewer than four employees from having to pay the minimum wage. Arkansas would also have a graduated increase, from $6.25 to $7.50 next year, to $8.00 in 2016, and to $8.50 in 2017.
Illinois’ measure would take a different approach, jumping theirs from $8.25 to $10.00 on January 1, 2015. This would make them by far the most expensive state for businesses that rely on low-skill workers. However, the measure is a nonbinding advisory question only, so it is possible that even if it passes it may not become law. Additionally, the wording only applies to adults over the age of 18.
South Dakota’s approach is a bit more complex. Their current level is the same as the federal level of $7.25 per hour. It would increase minimum wage for hourly employees to $8.50 an hour in 2015, and it would automatically increase every year in order to account for inflation. In addition, tipped employees would see an increase from $2.13 to $4.25.
Despite the fact that the minimum wage increases are generally terrible ideas, all four states look poised to approve the increases. The ironic thing about that is, four of those five states are generally considered conservative and pro-business, as well as anti-illegal immigration, two issues on which minimum wage increases would actually do their side of the cause more harm than good.
The minimum wage has long been a hot button topic, and it has only picked up steam in recent years. Democrats have seized on it as a means of appearing to support lower income people, even though most data shows that it actually harms them the most. The GOP has generally opposed hikes in the minimum wage, because although Republicans may be bad at science, they are pretty good at math.