Which States Increased Minimum Wage On New Year's Day? California & Massachusetts Now Have A $10 Standard
If your New Year's resolution involves making more money in 2016, then it definitely helps if you live in one of 14 states. Several cities and states increased their minimum wages on New Year's Day, thanks to previously passed laws that went into effect on Jan. 1. As of Friday, the average minimum wage in those states is now just over $9, whereas the federal minimum wage still rests at $7.25 per hour.
All in all, 14 states have an increased minimum wage as of Friday. The states are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. (Technically, wage increases in New York and West Virginia went into effect on New Year's Eve.) Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Maine, also increased wages at the local level. What's more, several other states, as well as the District of Columbia, have wage increases planned for later in 2016. All of the increases come as the federal minimum wage has stagnated at $7.25 for more than six years. It also comes at a time when the debate over the gap between rich and poor — or, more specifically, the debate over how to close that gap — is being ignited by the impending presidential election.
The largest increases came in Alaska, California, Massachusetts, and Nebraska, which each raised their minimum wages by a dollar. That makes California and Massachusetts the first states the in the country to implement $10-per-hour minimum wages. South Dakota, on the other hand, increased its minimum wage by just a nickel, from $8.50 to $8.55. That's still not too shabby, considering it's $1.30 higher than the federal minimum wage (and the minimum wage that many other states still use).
In Portland, the minimum wage increased to $10.10, a rate that activist groups across the country are currently calling on the federal government to adopt. In 2014, the Seattle City Council approved a $15 minimum wage, but it has been implemented gradually. The latest step toward that higher wage came on Friday. Businesses with 500 or more employees will pay workers at least $13 an hour this year, whereas smaller businesses will have to pay workers at least $12 an hour. By 2021, all businesses in the city will have to pay employees at least $15 an hour.
While the country debates income inequality and economic policy ahead of the 2016 presidential election, these new wage increases could signal a trend that the American public supports. From a study in May, The New York Times and CBS News found that 71 percent of adults favored raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 — including 50 percent of Republican adults. As has happened throughout history, Americans seem to be finding ways at the state and local level to experiment with their favored policies when the federal government lags behind.