On Wednesday night, the Massachusetts House passed a bill that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017. The Senate already passed that wage level, and after a procedural vote there it will head to Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who is expected to sign it into law.
An earlier Senate version of the bill would have also automatically increased the minimum wage as inflation rose, but that provision was dropped in the final version.
An $11 wage is the highest passed by any state this year. Eight other states have increased their wages so far: Delaware and West Virginia went above $8 an hour; Michigan went up to $9.25; Minnesota increased its wage to $9.50; Hawaii, Maryland, and Connecticut passed a $10.10 wage; and Vermont went to $10.50 an hour. The $10.10 an hour level is what President Obama and Congressional Democrats had pursued for a federal hike, but Republicans blocked the move.
While $11 an hour will be the highest state wage, some cities are going even further. Seattle will raise its wage to $15 an hour over ten years, and a nearby town already passed the same wage, although it’s currently being held up in court. Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco are all eyeing a $15 minimum wage as well.
While some worry that higher minimum wages will hurt jobs or businesses, states that already had high wages haven’t had that experience. Washington, which has the highest current wage at $9.32 an hour, experienced the biggest increase in small business employment last year. Over the 15 years since it increased its wage to a national high, job growth has remained at a steady, above average rate. All told, a comprehensive look at state minimum wage increases over two decades didn’t find evidence that they impacted job creation.