Voters in four states approve minimum wage hikes

After surviving a legal challenge last week, voters in Arkansas got the chance to decide at the polls if the minimum wage in their state should be raised. By a significant margin, they said yes. With most counties reporting, the measure to raise the minimum wage in the state passed 66 to 34 percent. That means minimum wage workers in Arkansas will see a few pay raises - first from $6.25 to $7.50 on Jan. 1, 2015 then twice more over the next two years, until it reaches $8.50 in 2017.

On Election Day 2014, the minimum wage appeared on the ballot in three other states - Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota - and in every state, a majority of voters decided the wage should be raised. The changes will affect at least 57,000 minimum wage earners across all four states.

In South Dakota, voters passed the wage increase by a margin of 55 to 45 percent. The 6,000 workers that currently earn the minimum wage in South Dakota will see a $1.25/hour raise on Jan. 1, 2015, which is the biggest immediate pay hike among the four states voting on the issue and worth about $200 more a month for a full-time worker, before taxes. Minimum wage earners in the state can also count on regular raises in the future: the ballot initiative requires the state’s wage now be adjusted for inflation every year, joining ten other states that currently have that requirement.

In Alaska, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, 69 percent of voters also said ‘yes’ to tying the state’s minimum wage to inflation in the future. In addition, the state’s wage will increase from $7.75 to $8.75 on Jan. 1, 2015 and to $9.75 on Jan. 1, 2016, giving at least 4,000 minimum wage earners a raise.

In Nebraska, the measure to increase the state’s wage from $7.25 to $9.00 by 2016 passed with a strong majority: 59 to 41 percent. That means 17,000 people earning the minimum wage in the state will see a 75 cent raise on Jan. 1, 2015 - equal to about $30 more a week for a full-time worker, before taxes.

With these changes to the minimum wage, states will hit a milestone on Jan. 1, 2015: more than half of states will have a minimum wage higher than the federal rate of $7.25.