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Minimum Wage Hikes Coming To A Red State Near You?

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The minimum wage debate has mainly taken place in liberal-dominated states, but the issue could expand to red states, WHTC reports.

When November rolls around, ballot initiatives to consider raising the minimum wage about the national rate of $7.25 an hour are set for Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

If successful, the an increase in the hourly rate would place significant pressure on Congress to increase the national rate, given that it would indicate a much broader support for minimum wage that transcends party lines.

Even in a red state like Arkansas, a poll earlier this year found that eight out of 10 voters support an increase in the minimum wage. Alaskan Republicans also tried to raise wages this year, but their efforts were crushed by Democrats, who want voters to make the decision through the a ballot initiative instead.

How much the minimum wage will increase depends on each state’s initiative, but President Barack Obama has been pushing for a relatively high minimum wage, and in the 2013 State of the Union address, Obama updated his proposed rate from $9 to $10.10 an hour.

The last time Congress acted on the minimum wage was in 2007, after it voted for an increase following successful ballot initiatives in a variety of states. Last year, 13 states raised their own minimum wage, as did six cities.

If the ballot initiatives are successful, the increase would benefit 419,000 workers, according to the left-leaning National Employment Law Project—a far cry from the White House estimates of 28 million workers.

And while some organizations have argued that an increase in the minimum wage is unlikely to cause significant job loss, economists David Neumark and William Wascher conducted an exhaustive 182-page review of the existing literature, testing that exact claim. They found that 85 percent of the best research shows that job-loss follows increases in the minimum wage.

And in February, the Congressional Budget Office published a study directly examining Obama’s proposal for a $10.10 national minimum wage, discovering that total employment would be reduced by 500,000 jobs if it were to come into effect.

“It’s other people’s money — it’s easy to spend,” said Denny DeWitt, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Alaska.

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