Minimum wage hike on ballot in four red states

Voters in four traditionally conservative states will lend their voices Tuesday to the national debate over raising the minimum wage.

Initiatives on the issue will appear on ballots in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Senate races in Alaska and Arkansas are considered two of the most competitive of the cycle, with incumbent Sens. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation MORE (D-Ark.) and Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (D-Alaska) up for reelection. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Alaska’s proposal would gradually bring its minimum wage up to $9.75 by 2016. Nebraska’s would be increased to $9 by 2016; South Dakota’s would go up to $8.50 next year, and the minimum wage would rise to the same amount in Arkansas by 2017. 

The minimum wage in Alaska and South Dakota would continue to increase based on inflation, according to The New York Times.

None of the proposals matches President Obama’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

In late April, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic-sponsored bill that would have raised the minimum wage to the president’s request.

Republicans have railed against the proposal, citing a report this year from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicting that an increase to $10.10 would cost about 500,000 jobs. Despite that drawback, the CBO also predicted 16.5 million low-wage Americans would receive an increase in their earnings. 

Twenty-six states and Washington, D.C., have set their minimum wages above the federal level, according to Raise the Minimum Wage. Ten of those states passed those hikes this year alone, Governing magazine reports.

The Labor Department says Washington, D.C., has the highest minimum wage at $9.50 per hour. Georgia and Wyoming have the lowest minimum wage — below the federal level — at $5.15 an hour.

— Vicki Needham contributed.