A handful of states started off the New Year with ballot measure proposals to raise their minimum wages. As state legislatures have kicked into gear, even more proposals to raise state and local minimum wages have emerged.
On top of those, this week One Fair Wage, a union-backed nonprofit that was started by the controversial Restaurant Opportunities Center, announced a $25 billion fundraising campaign to end tip credits in 25 states across the country.
Last year saw several important research additions to the economic majority consensus that raising regular and tipped minimum wages cause employment losses and slashed benefits. Yet, legislators and organizations backed by unions and other activists continue to introduce measures that would bring harsh economic realities to their states.
Bills proposed in state legislatures:
- The bills: State Senator Brian Taniguchi introduced SB 2018, which would raise the state minimum wage to $18 per hour by 2026, up from the current minimum wage rate of $10.10 per hour. The state also allows only a $0.75 tip credit, so the bill also raises the minimum wage for employees earning tips up to $17.25 per hour in the same time frame. State Representative Aquino Saiki introduced HB 2510, which would raise the state’s minimum wage to $18 by 2030 with an annual adjustment based on inflation in subsequent years.
- Status: State senators voted 24-1 in favor of the increase, passing SB 2018. It now awaits consideration in the state House, which is considering its own minimum wage proposal that features a longer implementation timeline. The State House Labor & Tourism Committee passed HB 2510, and referred it to the House Finance Committee.
- The bill: State Senator Eliott Bostar’s LB935 would allow counties to raise their minimum wages higher than the state level, currently at $9 per hour, and set higher wage mandates for tipped employees (currently set at $2.13 per hour). The state also has a ballot measure filed to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 (see below).
- Status: The bill received a public hearing in the unicameral legislature’s Business and Labor Committee.
- The bill: Thirteen state lawmakers have co-sponsored SB 203, which would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, and $7.25 per hour for employees receiving $30 or more per month in tips. New Hampshire’s minimum wage currently sits at $7.25 per hour, with a tipped minimum wage of $3.27 per hour.
- Status: The bill received a hearing in the Senate’s Commerce Committee, and awaits referral to the full Senate.
- The bill: State Senator Ethan Corson introduced SB 467, which would increase Kansas’ minimum wage up to $16 by 2026 from its current rate of $7.25 per hour. The bill also seeks to raise the minimum wage for tipped employees, from $2.13 to $3.25 next year.
- Status: The bill has received nine additional co-sponsors and was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.
- The bill: State Representative Camille Lilly’s HB 5139 would eliminate the tipped minimum wage in Illinois, which currently represents 60% of the regular minimum wage (tipped employees must earn at least $7.20 in base wages in 2022). The state’s regular minimum wage (currently $12 per hour) is set to increase annually until it reaches $15 in 2025, already requiring the tipped minimum wage increase to $9 per hour the same year.
- Status: The bill is currently awaiting committee assignment.
Ballot measures initiated:
- The measure: Assembly Joint Resolution 10 would eliminate the distinction between employers who pay for employee benefits and those who don’t in minimum wage requirements, and mandate a $12 per hour minimum wage by 2024 for all employers. The measure, a proposed constitutional amendment, would allow the legislature to raise the minimum wage in the future.
- Status: Constitutional amendments must be approved by votes in two legislative sessions. AJR 10 was approved in 2019 and 2021 sessions, and will appear before voters in November.
District of Columbia:
- The measure: If voters approve Initiative 82, Washington, D.C.’s minimum wage for tipped employees will increase by roughly $2 every year until it matches the regular minimum wage rate in 2027. Currently, D.C.’s minimum wage will be $16.10 per hour in July 2022, and the tipped minimum wage will reach $5.35 per hour, as both already increase every year based on inflation.
- Status: Ballot organizers must submit signatures to the D.C. Board of Elections on February 22 to appear on the June ballot. In 2018, voters approved a similar measure (Initiative 77), but City Council voted to repeal it after receiving testimony from DC’s tipped restaurant employees in favor of saving the tip credit.
- The measure: Raise the Wage MI announced it would launch a measure to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2027 and increase it every year after based on inflation. The proposed measure would also eliminate the state’s tip credit, so that the tipped minimum wage must equal the standard minimum by 2027 also.
- Status: The initiative’s official ballot summary was approved by the state Board of Canvassers to begin collecting enough signatures before June 1, clearing the first hurdle on its way toward the ballot. Then, the state legislature can choose to adopt the measure or send it to the ballot for voters to approve in November. Michigan legislators adopted a ballot initiative in 2018 to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour, but amended the language to extend the implementation out to 2030 instead of 2022 due to concerns over the job-killing consequences of a steep minimum wage hike.
- The measures: Idahoans for a Fair Wage filed four different versions of a ballot measure to raise the state’s minimum wage, with language ranging from an increase to $12 per hour by 2025 or $15 per hour by 2027. Each version would also raise the state’s tipped minimum wage to $3.90 per hour. Idaho currently has a $7.25 standard minimum wage and $3.35 per hour tipped minimum wage.
- Status: All four versions are in the signature collection phase, which must produce the required number of signatures by May 1 to be certified for the ballot in November.
- The measure: Raise the Wage Nebraska introduced a measure that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026.
- Status: The measure is currently in the signature collection phase, the requirement for which is based on the number of registered voters on the July 7 deadline. Thus, the exact number is not available for organizers until after submission. If enough signatures are collected and approved, the measure will appear before voters in November. The state’s last increase to $9 per hour was enacted through an approved ballot measure in 2014.
- The measure: California investor Joe Sanberg filed a ballot measure to raise the state’s minimum wage to $18 per hour by 2025. This year, California’s minimum wage just reached $15 per hour, and allows no tip credit.
- Status: The measure is currently in the signature collection phase, which must be submitted 131 days before the November 8 ballot, estimated to be around June 30. A recent fiscal review by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the measure would reduce employment opportunities for Californians.
While state and local movements to raise minimum wages are picking up, some states are working to curtail potentially harmful increases. The Virginia House of Delegates approved two bills to shield employers and their employees from job-killing wage hikes. HB 1040 received bipartisan support to allow businesses with 10 or fewer employees to be exempt from state minimum wage requirements. HB 320 passed the House and was referred to the state Senate to freeze the state’s current minimum wage of $11 per hour instead of advancing up to $15 per hour by 2026. Last year, New Hampshire lawmakers passed a bill to freeze the state tipped minimum wage at $3.27 per hour, to protect jobs in the hard-hit hospitality industry in the event of a federal $15 minimum wage mandate.