Minimum Wages Get a Hike in Midterm Votes

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UNITED STATES, Nov 5 – State wins for minimum wage ballot proposals show that raising the floor on pay has bipartisan appeal. Voters in Arkansas and Nebraska overwhelming chose to increase their states’ minimum wages Tuesday, and voters in San Francisco opted to start paying workers a nation-high $15 per hour.

In Arkansas, 65% of voters said “yes” to bumping the current minimum of $6.25 (many businesses still had to pay the federal minimum of $7.25) to $8.50 by 2017. Voters were almost as enthusiastic in Nebraska, with 59% approving a bump from $7.25 to $9 by 2016. The Arkansas and Nebraska wins happened despite big losses for Democrats in both states.

Late Tuesday just a single Democratic candidate was poised to win a federal election between them, even though the party made the issue a key political priority. Such a strong consensus for raising the minimum wage shows bipartisan support for an issue that has been contentious in Washington, where Obama and many congressional Democrats have backed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016.

Republicans say that while raising the minimum wage would push many workers above the poverty line, it would likely cost many others their jobs. A Congressional Budget Office report found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 could result in job losses of 500,000, while leading to higher incomes for an estimated 16.5 million workers. The increase in San Francisco will be phased in to reach $15 by 2018. Early voting counts showed more than 75% of voters opting to match Seattle for offering the highest minimum wage in the nation (though Seattle has been taken to court over its ordinance).

In Illinois, 62% of voters supported a non-binding resolution to raise the minimum wage to $10 by 2015. And on the East Coast, Massachusetts voters made their state the third in the nation to require paid sick leave for workers, after Connecticut and California. Two more ballot measures to raise the minimum wages in Alaska and South Dakota remained undecided late Tuesday night.

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