While most of the attention was on the House and Senate this year, as well as other ballot initiatives on issues like marijuana legalization, minimum wage increases were still on the ballot in several states.
In Arkansas, Issue 5 would incrementally raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021.
“The cost of groceries, housing and other basics have gone up for years. But wages haven’t come close to keeping up. No one who works full time should need food stamps to feed their family. We need to raise the minimum wage so families can feed their children without taxpayer dollars,” Arkansas for a Fair Wage, a group in support of Issue 5, said on its webpage.
“By gradually raising Arkansas’ minimum wage to $11 an hour, we can help hard-working people meet their basic needs. At the same time, we’ll help small businesses by putting more money into people’s pockets that they can spend on goods and services in our state.”
However, a group opposed to the increase, Arkansans for a Strong Economy, noted that Arkansas’ minimum wage was already higher than that of surrounding states, which could make the state uncompetitive in relation to the region.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, is also against the measure.
“Today, it was announced that Arkansas is in the top ten states for income growth and this success is accomplished by creating good paying jobs as we have done over the last 4 years,” Hutchinson said in a September statement.
“I will not vote for the ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage over 3 years to $11.00 per hour. This would be a job killer for our youth particularly.
“It is playing with fire to set a wage rate 3 years from now when we do not know the economic conditions that far down the road. I support raising the minimum wage, but it should be done through legislative action at such time when the economic outlook supports the action.”
Polling, however, seemed to show support for the measure, with a September survey finding 60 percent of Arkansans in favor of it.
Missouri Proposition B, meanwhile, sought to increase the minimum wage to $12 by 2023 and then pegging it to the Consumer Price Index.
“The measure would increase the minimum wage from $7.85 (2018) to $8.60 in 2019; $9.45 in 2020; $10.30 in 2021; $11.15 in 2022; and $12.00 in 2023. Thereafter, the minimum wage would increase or decrease each year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W),” Ballotpedia reported.
Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, the highest-profile Missourian on the ballot this November, had come out in favor of the initiative.
In August, she told reporters that she “couldn’t be more enthusiastic” about the proposal.
Numerous business leaders in the state, however, were opposed to the initiative.
“Business owners have to make a decision: If they have to pay more to each of their employees, then that means that they may be able to hire fewer employees, especially those who are just entering the job market,” Ray McCarty, CEO of the Associated Industries of Missouri, said.
“By raising the minimum wage, we’re actually maybe keeping some people from having jobs at all.”
Karen Buschmann, spokeswoman for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, disagreed. “A minimum wage mandate hurts the very people it is intended to help. As the minimum wage increases, the ability of employers to continue to employ workers is damaged, particularly affecting entry-level workers,” she said.
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