Minimum Wage Raise Sweeps States

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Up to 700,000 Americans could get a pay increase on or around Jan. 1, 2015, after voters approved minimum wage increases in all five states where the issue appeared on Election Day ballots.

Minimum wage workers in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota will get pay increases as a result of Tuesday's votes.

In Illinois, a non-binding resolution to raise the minimum wage was approved by voters by a margin of 66 percent to 33 percent, the Chicago Tribune reported. The measure requires approval by the state legislature.

The issue also showed up on local ballots, with San Francisco voters approving a $15 minimum wage over the course of three years by a huge margin of 76 percent in favor. The neighboring City of Oakland went for an increase to $12.25.

Reaction from activists to the victories was jubilant, with Twitter posts like this one, from @OccupyWallStreet: "Power to the people of San Francisco, who just voted themselves a $15 minimum wage."

Ironically, the measures to raise the minimum wage swept ballots on the same Election Day that brought resounding nationwide victories to Republican candidates, whose party had opposed the increases all along.

"Illinois voted to increase minimum wage, elected a governor who's opposed to it. Go home, Illinois. You're Drunk," tweeted one Chicago voter.

Here's the bottom line in each state:

Illinois
If the measure is finalized by the state legislature, the Illinois minimum wage will increase from $8.25 to $10 per hour. An advocacy group, Voices for Illinois Children, estimates that the measure would boost the family incomes of one in five Illinois children.

With little to celebrate otherwise, Democrats are expected to seize the chance to bring the issue to debate in the state legislature before the end of the year.

Arkansas
Arkansas voters approved the referendum by a margin of about 65 percent to 35 percent, according to Arkansas Online.

The Arkansas minimum wage will increase from $7.25 to $7.50 on Jan. 1, followed by further increases to $8 in 2016 and $8.50 in 2017.

Nebraska
The Nebraska minimum wage will increase from $7.25 to $8 next year, and to $9 in 2016. The measure passed easily, with 59 percent in favor and 41 percent against.

South Dakota
South Dakota's minimum wage will go from $7.25 to $8.50 on Jan. 1, and to $9 in 2016. The measure passed narrowly, with 55 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Alaska
By a margin of about 70 percent in favor to 30 percent opposed, Alaskans approved a raise in the state's minimum wage from the current $7.75 to $8.75 as of Jan. 1, and to $9.75 per hour one year later. The measure is largely seen as symbolic, since Alaska's high cost of living has already forced most employers to pay above the minimum.
The squabbling in Washington over a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage is rapidly becoming a moot point, as states increasingly take the matter into their own hands.

Since last January, when President Barack Obama proposed increasing the wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, Congress has taken no action, but the minimum wage has been increased in 21 states due to state legislative action or automatic inflation adjustments.
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