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Voters Approve Increased Minimum Wages Across the Country

by Shawna Dunham | Jan 04, 2017
The effects of many of these passing propositions begin this month - how will it affect YOUR payroll department?
Throughout 2016, the minimum wage appeared in political initiatives across the country. The topic was debated among constituencies ranging from college students to political figures. In April, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Presidential candidates such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders built campaign platforms around the minimum wage, “fightfor15”, that implored voters to reconsider the purpose of the wage floor. The publicity served the wage floor well, and proposals for an increase in the minimum wage appeared on a multitude of states’ 2016 ballots. Voters from Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington all passed initiatives that substantially raise the minimum wage by the year 2020. 

In November, Arizonans voted “yes” to the Fair Wages and Healthy Family Initiative. The state’s Proposition 206 will incrementally increase Arizona’s current minimum wage, $8.05 an hour, to $12 an hour by 2020 with raises beginning January 1, 2017. In addition to raising the minimum wage, the proposition enables employees to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked –limitations regarding accrual depend on the size of the employer. Employers with fewer than 15 employees are required to annually provide each worker with 24 hours of paid sick leave, and employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide each worker a minimum of 40 hours of annual paid sick leave. A few of the conditions defined in Proposition 206 that catalyze the use of paid sick time are: physical or mental illness, to care for a family member, a public-health emergency, or domestic violence. 

Colorado also followed suit during the 2016 election and passed Amendment 70 with a 55.36% approval rating. The amendment calls for a $12 minimum wage by 2020. The idea of increasing the minimum wage was not a new concept for Colorado voters. It appeared once before on the statewide ballot in 2006 as Initiative 42. The passing of Initiative 42 increased the minimum wage to $6.45 an hour and tied it to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which adjusts the minimum wage annually to account for increases in the cost of living. The design of Amendment 70 increases the minimum wage to $9.30 in 2017, $10.20 in 2018, $11.10 in 2019, and $12.00 in 2020. After 2020, annual adjustments will continue to increase with the CPI to account for the cost of living. 

Maine’s voters approved the indirect initiated state statute, known as Question 4. The minimum wage proposal was one of five voter initiatives on Maine’s 2016 ballot. It will increase the statewide hourly minimum wage from the current $7.50 to $12 by 2020. Voters in favor of Question 4 lend their support due to the underlying assumptions that raising Maine’s minimum wage would enable low-wage workers to meet their financial obligations without help from government funded social programs, it would boost consumer spending in the state, and it would facilitate growth in local economy. 

Washington also had an initiated state statute on its ballot in 2016. Initiative 1443 will incrementally raise the state's minimum wage from $9.47 to $13.50 by 2020. It also mandates employers to offer paid sick leave. Before the approval of Initiative 1443, Washington's minimum wage was expected to increase to $10.28 an hour by 2020. The state of Washington has been a pioneer for higher wages –holding the eighth-highest minimum wage out of all U.S. states with Seattle being the first major city to approve a $15 minimum wage in 2014. 

This election year, increasing the minimum wage appeared in different legislative forms on state ballots across the country. Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington all passed initiatives that call for a minimum wage of $12 an hour or higher by the year 2020. As the conversation surrounding the minimum wage continues, so does the potential for additional minimum wage legislation to be passed.  

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