States Swerve Around Congress Into Minimum Wage Passing Lane

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The proposed minimum wage hike to $10.10 may be at a standstill in Congress, but that hasn’t stopped state governments from enacting pay increases independently of national legislature — a move President Barack Obama has been encouraging for some time now. According to USA Today, by January 1, 2015, twenty-one states will have higher minimum wage requirements than the federal government’s $7.25, with thirteen states raising their wages this week, and eleven making similar moves down the road.

Minnesota and Maryland are the two most recent states to pass changes through their legislatures. Maryland increased its wage up to $10.10 by 2018, rising in smaller increments in the years leading up to it. “The Maryland Legislature did the right thing for its workers today by increasing the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour,” reads President Obama’s statement on the change. “Maryland’s important action is a reminder that many states, cities and counties — as well as a majority of the American people — are way ahead of Washington on this crucial issue.”

Raising Maryland’s minimum wage is a huge win for the hundreds of thousands of workers across the state who will get a raise, as well as the businesses and communities that will experience increased economic activity because of higher wages,” said Ricarra Jones, the chair of Raise Maryland, in a statement.

Others, including those in Congress, argue that upping the minimum wage across the U.S. could stunt job creation. ”We know beyond dispute that raising the minimum wage will destroy jobs for people who need them the most. When folks are still struggling to find work in this economy, why would we make that any harder?” asked Brendan Buck, the spokesperson for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), according to The Washington Post.

Minnesota’s change is especially noted for bringing one of the lowest minimums at $6.15 up to on of the highest, planning a raise to $9.50 at the end of 2016. Minnesota previously joined only Arkansas, Georgia, and Wyoming in having wages set below the federal requirement. Minnesota’s increase would also come with an inflation adjustment (at a 2.5 percent cap) that would begin in 2018. Connecticut will eventually pull its wage minimum up to $10.10 in 2017, at which point it will be the highest in the U.S., matching up with Obama’s federal contractor minimum. In total, as of April 8, thirty-eight states had deliberated minimum wage bills for the 2014 session, and thirty-four are looking at increases to the state minimum wage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Finally, some states, like Michigan, are not considering a wage change, but have groups lobbying to encourage them to do so. For Michigan, it’s the Raise Michigan ballot committee, who is working to gain the 258,000 signatures needed by May 28 in order to get Michigan’s legislature’s attention — or see the ballot go to voters in November.

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