President Obama sparked fierce debate when he proposed raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 last year; the current national rate is $7.25. At the polls yesterday, voters expressed their strong support of this initiative, even as they cast votes for GOP candidates in the Senate and the House.
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It could have gone either way. The anticipated turnout of Republican voters in this election was high, and traditionally, conservative lawmakers have opposed such increases. But, despite the clear Republican victory last night in the Senate and House, every state that proposed increases on the ballot passed the measure, often, by an overwhelming margin. This suggests bipartisan support for the initiative, particularly because these states all suffered big losses for Democrats alongside the minimum wage increase.
More than two-thirds of voters in Alaska endorsed a minimum wage increase to $9.75 by 2016. Similar margins supported a bump to $8.50 in Arkansas by 2017. Fifty-nine percent of Nebraska’s voters weighed in, raising the state’s rate to $9 an hour by 2016. The margin of support in South Dakota was less significant, but 53 percent of voters have elected to raise the rate there to $8.50 by next year. Additionally, more than three-quarters of San Francisco’s voters have increased their local minimum wage rate to $15 an hour.
Although many other issues contribute to income inequality, including shortened work weeks that prevent workers’ financial advancement, high-deductible health insurance plans, and the impracticality of scheduling second jobs when both employers expect to be top priority, an increase to the minimum wage in these states is a step in the right direction.
Recently, PayScale asked a small sampling of our users to weigh in on the minimum wage debate, and found that users were split, roughly 50/50, with 49.4 percent in favor of raising the minimum to $15 an hour and 50.6 percent against. As more and more states introduce similar measures, this issue may continue to receive bipartisan support.
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