Four States Overwhelmingly Approve Minimum Wage Hikes

ByBecca Stanek

Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Alaska passed initiatives Tuesday night to raise the minimum wage. The ballot measures had well over 60% of the votes in Arkansas, Nebraska, and Alaska and had just over 50% in South Dakota, according to early results

Arkansas will plan to incrementally bump the minimum wage up to $8.50 an hour by 2017. The state's current minimum wage is $6.25, making Arkansas one of the few states in the country with a minimum wage below $7.25 an hour. In Nebraska, the minimum wage will climb to $9 from its current $8 an hour by 2016. 

South Dakota's minimum wage currently sits at $7.25 and will be bumped up to $8.50 at the beginning of next year. In Alaska, minimum wage will first increase at the beginning of 2015 from $7.75 to $8.75 and it will be bumped again at the beginning of 2016 to $9.75 an hour.

Based on previous polls, none of the states' votes were a surprise. A poll from earlier in the year found that 79% of Arkansas residents said they would vote yes on the measure, and a majority of Nebraskans also indicated that they would support the measure. Polling in South Dakota and Alakska also predicted a victory for the hike.

Minimum wage initiatives passed in every state in which they appeared on the ballots this year. Interestingly, all four of the states in which it passed are traditionally conservative states. The overwhelming support for such measures largely reflects the opinions of the country as a whole, Democrats and Republicans alike. This support likely stems from the fact that an increase in the minimum wage is long overdue. The rate has remained stagnant since 2009 and has not kept pace with inflation.

Despite the fact that these four states passed minimum wage raises, this progress will only be a small step in the right direction. If minimum wage were to match inflation rates, workers would now be making $18.42 an hour.

Still, here's to hoping that the results in this midterm are just beginning of trends to raise the minimum wage.

This post has been updated to reflect the results in Nebraska and Alaska.