Florida and Nevada To Let
Voters Decide In November
Legislatures Continue To Raise Minimum Wages At State Level
by Belinda Judson
Executive Director, Mid-States NATO
As we’ve seen with other pieces of legislation,
the states are not waiting for the U.S. Congress to address
many issues that once were decided on the federal level.
This is especially true these days with regard to increases
in the minimum wage, largely because a) the feds have not
raised the minimum wage since 1997 and b) it’s an
election year and wages, jobs and the economy are always
hot campaign issues.
According to a report in The
Wall Street Journal, 12 states and the District of Columbia already
higher than the $5.15 federal rate. They are:
Washington – $7.16
Alaska – $7.15
Connecticut – $7.10
Oregon – $7.05
California – $6.75
Massachusetts – $6.75
Rhode Island – $6.75
Vermont – $6.75
Maine – $6.35
Hawaii – $6.25
District of Columbia – $6.15
Delaware – $6.15
Illinois – $5.50
In addition, many of these states with
higher minimum wages have already passed legislation
that will raise their
rates even higher. Washington and Oregon have automatic
annual increases that are adjusted for inflation. Washington,
D.C.’s minimum is automatically set at $1 above the
federal rate. Vermont has passed legislation to raise its
to $7 in 2005 and Maine will go from $6.35 to $6.50 on
Oct. 1, 2005.
Delaware has proposed raising theirs to
$6.65 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2005 and then to $7.15
on Jan. 1, 2006.
California legislators have just passed
a bill that would make their minimum wage the highest in
the country. Their
bill would raise the hourly minimum to $7. 25 on July 1,
2005 and to $7.75 on July 1, 2006. At press time, the bill
was headed to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who
had not yet stated whether he intended to veto the legislation.
In New York, legislation had passed that
would increase the minimum wage to $7.15 by 2007, but Gov.
vetoed the bill on the grounds that New York’s minimum
would be raised higher than those of surrounding states,
which could discourage business development in New York.
In Florida and Nevada, the issue will be
decided Nov. 2 by the voting public. Both states have proposed
to their states’ constitutions that would raise their
Nevada’s amendment would “require employers
to pay Nevada employees $5.15 per hour worked if the employer
provides health benefits or $6.15 per hour worked if the
employer does not provide health benefits. The rates shall
be adjusted by the amount of increases in the federal minimum
wage over $5.15 per hour, or, if greater, by the cumulative
increase in the cost of living measured by the Consumer
Price Index (CPI), with no CPI adjustment for any one-year
period greater than 3 percent.”
According to The Wall
Street Journal, the
secretary of state and attorney general of Nevada are before
supreme court, contesting on state constitutional grounds
the validity of the ballot proposal.
Florida’s amendment would increase the minimum wage
to $6.15 per hour six months after enactment and be indexed
to inflation each year thereafter on Jan. 1.
Many business groups in both Florida and
Nevada have expressed concern that, because the measures
are ballot initiatives,
it is harder to get their message out regarding the effects
higher wages would have on businesses and jobs.
As you can see, the minimum wage continues
to be no minimal issue.