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Minimum Wage Hikes Pass in 4 Red States

The ballot measures follow a wave of mostly Democratic states lifting wages for low-income workers after federal inaction.

Voters in four Republican-run states -- Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota -- passed ballot measures on Tuesday that will raise each state's minimum wage. They join 10 other states whose legislatures and governors enacted a minimum-wage hike in 2014.

Here are the results by state:

  % Yes % No
Alaska 69 31
Arkansas 65 35
South Dakota 55 45
Nebraska 59 41
The ballot measures were part of a wave of state and local efforts to lift wages for low-income workers that began last year with California, New Jersey and New York raising their states' minimum wage rates. In January, President Obama used his State of the Union address to ask more states and cities to raise the local minimum wage, rather than wait for Congress -- which in April voted against taking up the issue.

Before the election, 23 states had higher wage floors than the federal requirement. Minimum hourly pay in those states ranges from $7.50 in Maine to $9.32 in Washington state. Ten states index their state minimum wages to local cost-of-living adjustments, meaning that they automatically rise with inflation. Most of the states that have enacted wage increases this year do not index to inflation, however. Connecticut, for example, is set to reach a minimum wage of $10.10 by 2017. Workers who receive that hourly pay will see the real value decrease in future years unless the legislature passes another wage hike.

The following chart compares the scheduled increases in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota with the 10 states that passed minimum wage laws through the legislature. The federal minimum wage remains $7.25 an hour, which has not changed since 2009.

  2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Alaska $7.75 $8.75 $9.75 Indexed Indexed
Arkansas $7.25 $7.50 $8.00 $8.50 Same
Nebraska $7.25 $8.00 $9.00 Same Same
South Dakota $7.25 $8.50 Indexed Indexed Indexed
Connecticut $8.70 $9.15 $9.60 $10.10 Same
Delaware $7.75 $8.25 Same Same Same
Hawaii $7.25 $7.75 $8.50 $9.25 $10.10
Maryland $7.25 $8.00 $8.25 $8.75 $9.25
Massachusetts $8.00 $8.25 $8.75 $9.25 $10.10
Michigan $7.40 $8.15 $8.50 $8.90 $9.25
Minnesota $8.00/$6.50 $9.00/$7.25 $9.50/$7.75 Same Indexed
Rhode Island $8.00 $9.00 Same Same Same
Vermont $8.73 $9.15 $9.60 $10.00 $10.50
West Virginia  $7.25 $8.00 $8.75 Same Same
In the case of Minnesota, the chart above shows two minimum wage tiers, one for large businesses and one for small businesses. Michigan's minimum wage was $7.40 until September, when a new law pushed it to $8.15.

Recent minimum wage hikes, with the exception of Michigan, have mostly been in states with Democratic legislatures and governors. In the case of the four states that just passed measures, all four have Republican majorities in the legislatures and only Arkansas had a Democrat in the governor's mansion. A fifth state, Democratic Illinois, asked voters a nonbinding question about whether they would support an increase to the minimum wage, and 67 percent of voters said yes.

In the past year, some localities have set a city or county minimum wage that is higher than the state or federal requirement. The latest to do so is Oakland, Calif., where voters on Tuesday decided to up the local minimum wage to $12.25 an hour by next year.

J.B. Wogan is a Governing staff writer.
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