Election 2016: 4 States That Increased the Minimum Wage

fast food workers at McDonald's

Fast food workers and other low-wage workers will get a boost in the minimum wage after voters approved increases in four states | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It’s safe to say the 2016 election touched on a myriad of controversial topics, with staunch supporters on both sides of a number of issues. Not only was the country choosing a new president, but in several states people also cast their vote to approve marijuana legalization, new gun laws, and varying laws about the death penalty. Regardless of their views on any of those topics, it’s also safe to assume that low-wage workers in four states across the nation are waking up with good news: Their paychecks are about to get a bump.

In all four states where minimum wage increases were on the ballot, voters chose to give hourly workers a raise. Though none of them were for a full $15 an hour — the popular push for advocates of the “Fight for 15” movement — each of the wage changes represents an increase of 43% to 60%, CNN Money reports.

In early 2016, California and New York became the first states to approve a gradual increase to $15 an hour, energizing advocates but frustrating business officials who claim the raises will be detrimental to the economy. Most people are still waiting to see what happens in cities like Seattle, the first major metropolis to raise wages to $15 an hour across the board. So far, the results of it’s so-called experiment are murky, without a clear answer about whether the raise helped or hurt workers and the economy at large.

Votes to increase, decrease minimum wage

wage protest

A wage protester in Chicago | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Debate — and voting — about minimum wage changes is sure to continue in the coming years. Just recently, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have raised the minimum wage to $15 in the state. Democrats in the state would like to put the measure to a popular vote in 2017, but so far Christie has blocked efforts to add it as a ballot question for next year.

Since Christie is so against raising the wage that significantly, it’s not surprising he’s also fighting to keep it from becoming a ballot measure. Wage increases perform very well when voters have a chance to weigh in. As CNN reports, all 15 ballot measures to raise wages since 2000 have passed, now bumped up to 19 with the latest voter measures.

Interestingly enough, South Dakota voters went to the polls to vote on lowering the minimum wage for workers under 18, from the state’s current minimum wage of $8.55 to the federal minimum of $7.25. The effort was scorned by voters, however, with The New York Times reporting it was rejected by more than 70% of voters.

Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington all join the ranks of several cities and states that have increased their minimum wages in recent months. Here’s what those increases will look like in the coming years.

1. Arizona

View of Phoenix Arizona

Arizona | iStock.com

Initial minimum wage: $8.08

Wage increase: $12 by 2020

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour hasn’t budged in seven years, so states like Arizona are beginning to take matters into their own hands. Each of the four increases approved by voters, including Proposition 206 in Arizona, will phase in the increase gradually, and then tie the wage to inflation after it reaches the $12 mark. The largest increase will take place in January, with the minimum wage rising to $10 at the beginning of 2017. After that, increases will be 50 cents or a dollar each following year.

The proposition also requires employers to begin providing paid sick time for all employees. Small companies now need to provide 24 hours of paid sick leave, while companies with 15 or more employees must provide 40 hours per year of paid leave. The change to $12 an hour will eventually increase the wages of an estimated 800,000 workers in Arizona, about 30% of the state’s workforce, the Grand Canyon Institute reports. Just over 59% of voters approved the wage hike.

2. Colorado

Willow Lake, headed towards Kit Carson

Willow Lake, Colorado | iStock.com/nick1803

Initial minimum wage: $8.31

Wage increase: $12 by 2020

Colorado infamously became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, and now it’s also joining the league of states to increase the minimum wage. Not surprisingly, Amendment 70 had strong support from labor unions, advocacy groups, and low-wage workers themselves.

The amendment was opposed by several business groups, including the Colorado Restaurant Association. One opponent called the measure one of “small business versus big labor,” according to the Denver Post. Despite that, the amendment is expected to pass completely, with 89% of the votes accounted for in the state as of the Wednesday following Election Day. At a 54.3% approval rating, however, it’s passed with less support than in Arizona.

3. Maine

Maine scenery

Maine | Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Initial minimum wage: $7.50

Wage increase: $12 by 2020

With a current minimum wage that’s just a quarter more than the federal baseline, Maine’s low-wage workers will see the largest increases to their paychecks over the next few years. Question 4 will raise the minimum wage by $4.50 over the next four years, which many citizens viewed as a boon for their livelihoods.

As the Portland Press Herald reported, a survey conducted in September showed that 6 our of 10 Maine citizens supported the increase, but also admitted a paradox by saying they also thought it would hurt small businesses. With 96% of the ballots counted, the measure will pass with a final 55.6% approval rating.

4. Washington

Seattle Cityscape

Seattle, Washington, where the minimum wage is already on the move | iStock.com/welcomia

Initial minimum wage: $9.47

Wage increase: $13.50 by 2020

Since Washington already has the highest minimum wage out of the four states in question, it also makes sense that it would have the highest potential wage at the end of voting. It’s largest city of Seattle is already well on its way to a $15 minimum wage, but the state-wide wage will end up being a slightly smaller amount.

By early Wednesday after voting, Initiative 1433 was approved with 60% of the vote statewide, according to the Seattle Times. Not surprisingly, voters in King County (where Seattle is located) approved it with much higher margins at 72% in favor. The ballot measure also mandated paid sick leave for all workers, which will begin to accumulate in 2018.

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