Economy

Nevada Bill Aims To Scrap Minimum Wage That Voters Passed By Ballot Initiative

CREDIT: AP/Cathleen Allison

Nevada state Sen. Joe Hardy (R)

After President Obama called for states to raise their minimum wages in his 2013 State of the Union, 10 of them took him up on the challenge by raising their wages last year, so many that the majority of states now have a higher wage than the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

But in Nevada, state Sen. Joe Hardy (R) wants to move in the other direction. He’s introduced legislation that would repeal the state’s minimum wage, currently set at $8.25 for those who don’t get health benefits. In 2006, the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment that sets a standard minimum wage, but Hardy’s resolution would repeal it and give the legislature the ability to control the wage.

Even if they don’t have a higher wage than the federal floor, the vast majority of states at least have set one. Five have no minimum wage law — Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee — while two, Georgia and Wyoming, have set theirs lower than $7.25. Even so, the federal minimum takes precedence, so employers in these states still have to pay employees at least that much.

Some other states have also considered reducing, rather than raising, their wages. In February, a South Dakota state committee approved a proposal that would allow its minimum wage to decrease, erasing a provision of a wage hike approved by voters that bars it from falling. Other states are considering lower wages for certain groups, like tipped workers or young people.

Hardy’s Democratic colleagues, however, have a very different idea. State Sen. Tick Segerblom (D) has sponsored legislation that would raise the constitutional minimum wage to $15 an hour for those without health insurance. A $15 wage is still rare but starting to gain traction after striking fast food workers have called to be paid at least that much. Seattle and San Francisco have increased their wages to that level, while Portland increased the wage for city workers to that much, and it’s under consideration in Oregon, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

The federal minimum wage, meanwhile, hasn’t been raised in six years, despite Congressional Democrats introducing increases multiple times. If it had kept up with inflation, it would be more than $10 an hour, and if it had kept up with rising worker productivity, it would be more than $20.