The minimum wage in Nebraska will rise from $9 to $15 an hour by 2026 and in Nevada from $10.50 to $12 an hour by 2024 after voters in both states approved ballot measures on Nov. 8.
Nebraskans approved Initiative 433 by a margin of 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent, raising their state’s minimum wage by vote for the second time since 2014, when they voted to raise it from $7.25 to $9 a year by 2016 raise hour.
Nevada voters passed Question 2 in their midterm elections by a majority of 55.2 to 44.8 percent, and also increased the state’s base hourly rate by popular vote for the second time since 2006, while scrapping the nation’s only two-tier minimum wage system.
According to Ballotpedia, voters in 16 states have passed 24 out of 26 minimum wage proposals since 1996, including 23 directly since 1998.
States where voters have done so twice are Arkansas (2014, 2018), Arizona (2006, 2016), Colorado (2006, 2016), Florida (2004, 2020), Washington (1998, 2016), Oregon (1996, 2002), and Nebraska (2014, 2022).
In Nevada, voters actually approved three minimum wage measures this century — in 2004 and 2006 and on November 8th. But the 2004-2006 votes concerned a minimum wage measure that had to be approved twice under state law, requiring proposed citizen-initiated constitutional amendments to be approved by voters in back-to-back elections.
Nevada’s 2006 minimum wage measure had to be approved twice under state law, which requires proposed citizen-initiated constitutional amendments to be approved by voters in back-to-back elections.
However, Nevada’s Question 2 does not need to be put before voters again because it was put to the vote by lawmakers after passing a resolution initiating the measure in 2019 and 2021.
In 2019, the Nevada legislature also passed Assembly Law 456, which increased the state’s minimum wage to $8 or $9 an hour, depending on whether the employer offered health care benefits.
AB 456 increased the minimum wage by 75 cents each year until it reached $11 an hour in 2024 for workers who were offered health insurance and $12 for those who were not offered the option by employers.
Question 2 repeals this health insurance rule from the 2006 measure, eliminating Nevada’s two-tier minimum wage system while also eliminating annual inflation adjustments and clarifying that state legislatures have the power to increase the minimum wage by law.
Under the new law, starting in July 2024, all Nevada workers will be paid $12 an hour regardless of health care benefits.
The measure sparked well-known debates among proponents and opponents, with proponents arguing that every person earning a minimum wage should earn the same amount regardless of whether they are offered health services.
Proponents claimed that 2006 health care was routinely ignored by some employers while others offered health care options that were “priceless junk,” especially as subsidized plans are available under the Affordable Care Act.
The measure was backed by progressive groups, Democratic lawmakers and labor organizations with significant influence in Nevada.
The US Bureau of Statistics in 2019 ranked Nevada first nationwide in percentage of workers. More than 12 percent of the nation’s unionized workers work in Nevada.
Question 2 was submitted by the Nevada Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI).
In a pre-election editorial, NPRI Outreach & Coalitions Director Marcos Lopez wrote that Question 2 was “as much about healthcare as it is about minimum wage” because of the “unaffordable junk” Insurance offered by employers is through the ACA, which calls the measure “an odd way to admit Obamacare failed.”
The battle for health care is “heating up right now,” he wrote, calling for an approach that gets to the “real root of the problem.”
“The failures of Obamacare and top-down, unified approaches to healthcare must be articulated and replaced in their place with a patient-centric, free-market approach that reintroduces competition to empower consumers,” Lopez said wrote.
Nevada’s 2004 and 2006 minimum wage proposals both passed by more than 68 percent of voters. Question 2 scored 55 percent and actually failed in 15 of the state’s 17 counties.
The two counties that passed Question 2 were Clark, which includes Las Vegas, and Washoe, which includes Reno. The measure went down 20 percentage points in Clark County, where 73 percent of Nevadans live, and 4 percentage points in Washoe, where about 15 percent of the state’s residents live.
The usual pro-con arguments about raising the minimum wage were also debated in Nebraska before Initiative 433 passed on Nov. 8, with yes votes outnumbering no votes by 17 percentage points.
As part of the measure, the minimum hourly wage in Nebraska will increase from $9 to $10.50 on January 1, 2023; to $12 on January 1, 2024; to $13.50 on January 1, 2025; and $15 on January 1, 2026.
Thereafter, the minimum wage is adjusted each year based on increases in the consumer price index for all urban consumers for the Midwest region.
The measure was sponsored by Raise the Wage Nebraska, a coalition of more than 25 labor and progressive groups that raised more than $3 million to lure voters to adoption, including $2 Millions from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that sponsors The Fairness Project.
According to Raise the Wage Nebraska, the measure will increase wages for more than 150,000 workers in the state who are earning minimum wages beginning Jan. 1.
With an annual salary of $9,000, the annual salary of $18,000 means “parents can’t afford to pay the rent and put food on the table.”
Initiative 433 was opposed by the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association and the Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA), among others, who argued that it would harm Nebraska businesses and reduce youth employment.
“The proposed increase in the initiative is a 66.7 percent increase over four years,” LIBA CEO Bud Synhorst wrote in an October editorial. “This is a radical increase that will be felt throughout the economy.”