Results are showing that voters in New Jersey and SeaTac, a small town in Washington state, voted to increase the minimum wage through ballot initiatives on Tuesday night.
In New Jersey, the minimum wage, which was set at the federal floor of $7.25, will now rise by a dollar and the state constitution will be amended to include automatic increases tied to inflation. It is now the eleventh state to adopt automatic increases to the wage, standing in contrast to the federal government, where it hasn’t risen in four years. Over 60 percent of voters approved the measure.
While the final results haven’t been declared in SeaTac, the town that is home to the airport of the same name, backers are declaring victory with the measure showing a lead. This measure goes much further than New Jersey’s and, assuming final results show that it was approved, will be the most generous minimum wage in the country at $15 an hour. The town’s previous wage floor was $9.19 for the 6,500 people who work in the airport and elsewhere.
While the minimum wage stagnates at the federal level — where it would be over $10 an hour if it had kept up with inflation since the late 1960s — states and local communities have been taking matters into their own hands. Voters approved a raise in Albuquerque, NM; San Jose, CA; and Long Beach, CA in the 2012 election. Supporters are pushing for higher wages in Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and South Dakota either through ballot measures or by pressuring lawmakers.
And American voters nearly always approve raises when given the chance by substantial majorities. Raising the minimum wage garners widespread support, with a recent poll showing 80 percent of Americans in favor of an increase to $10.10 an hour, including two-thirds of Republicans and nearly 80 percent of the well off.
No wonder, when the evidence shows that it would give the economy a big boost and offer a lifeline to millions of Americans. The Chicago Federal Reserve found that increasing the wage to $9 would increase spending by about $48 billion and give GDP a 0.3 percent boost. Several studies have shown that a raise doesn’t hurt jobs and, on the contrary, may even boost job growth. An increase to $10.10 an hour would lift nearly 6 million people out of poverty.