WASHINGTON -- Americans want to raise the minimum wage, and they're done waiting around for Congress to do it for them.
On Tuesday night, voters in four states -- Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota -- passed binding ballot measures that will hike their minimum wages. None of those red-leaning states is exactly a hotbed of socialism. And yet their voters have soundly rejected the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as insufficient for workers.
As it turns out, most other states have now done the same.
The federal minimum wage set by Congress prevails in any state that doesn't mandate a higher one. Until this year, a majority of states had declined either through legislation or the ballot box to set a minimum wage above $7.25.
But after Tuesday's referendums, and after legislation recently passed in Maryland, Hawaii and West Virginia, 29 states and the District of Columbia will soon have minimum wages higher than the federal level.
That shouldn't surprise anyone who's seen polling on the minimum wage. In most surveys, around two-thirds of respondents or more say they back a proposal to raise it. That support typically includes a healthy amount of Republican voters, along with an overwhelming majority of Democrats.
On Tuesday, the minimum-wage hike in Alaska passed 69-31; in Arkansas, 66-34; in Nebraska, 59-41; and in South Dakota, 55-45.
The proposal put forth by congressional Democrats, which would raise the federal wage floor to $10.10 per hour and tie it to an inflation index, enjoys widespread support in most polls. It has so far been blocked in both chambers by Republicans. The federal minimum wage hasn't been raised since 2009, when the last of a series of increases that had been passed in 2007 took effect.
Several states are already moving far above the $7.25 wage set by Congress. Six states -- California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont -- are slated to hit at least $10 per hour by 2018 at the latest. What's more, 15 states have decided to tie their minimum wages to an inflation index either now or after a series of scheduled increases, thereby assuring it keeps pace with the cost of living.
Graphic by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.
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