Even as we continue to disseminate all that was Election 2014, it’s important to note that one issue typically associated with Progressive policies not only survived the Red Tide, but proved to be one of the night’s biggest winners. Voters in four states and the city of San Francisco all approved increases in the minimum wage. In literally every area where any form of a minimum wage increase was on the ballot, that measure was approved by a decisive majority. Here are the details from Erik Sherman of Forbes Magazine…
If there was upsets and contention in much of midterm voting, there was one topic on which the electorate was largely united: raising the minimum wage. Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota all had ballot measures on raising state minimum wages above both their current levels and the federal $7.25 an hour figure.
All four states passed the measures, most by significant margins. More than two-thirds of voters in Alaska agreed to raise minimum wage to $9.75 by 2016. Sixty-five percent of Arkansas voters set the state on course to adopt an $8.50 figure by 2017. In Nebraska, 59 percent said the number should be $9 an hour by 2016. Only South Dakota stood out with a slimmer margin; 53 percent voted to raise minimum wage to $8.50 an hour next year. In Alaska and South Dakota, minimum wage is now pegged to inflation, meaning that it will rise as the cost of living does.
Those weren’t the only votes on the topic. San Francisco, one of the most expensive American cities to live in, increased its local minimum wage to $15 an hour. In Illinois, 62 percent voted for a non-binding referendum to increase minimum wage to $10 an hour by next year. On a related topic, Massachusetts voters passed mandatory paid sick leave. California and Connecticut were the first two states to require the benefit.
The Arkansas vote was especially interesting to see. As Democratic forces have slowly been eradicated, many were wondering what the results of the this statewide vote would be. You have to hand it to the Natural State’s newest Senator-Elect Tom Cotton, as he was able to accurately predict that if the Minimum Wage made it to the ballot, it would pass. Did this decision have a direct effect on pushing Cotton into the Senate? It’s tough to tell, but supporting the people in at least one issue sure didn’t hurt.
2014 proves that increasing the minimum wage is just as popular in red states as it is in blue states. And right now, no red state needs to raise it’s wages more than Texas. As job growth has skyrocketed, so have home values, property taxes and rent. In just 5 short years, major cities have seen rent increases as high as 30 percent. This creates a growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor.
A report issued by the National Low Income Housing Coalition looks at just how much low-income Americans are struggling to make rent every month. From this excerpt of the data, one thing is clear… if you live in a Texas major city, $7.25 an hour is no longer enough to survive.
*Living Wage is calculated based on rent being 30% of an individual income, and requiring a 2 bedroom apartment without government assistance.
Of course there are variances here, like people who may not have need for a 2 bedroom apartment. But the determination of a an actual Living Wage assumes that a person makes enough money to fully support themselves. For example, a person living in a 1 bedroom apartment, their living wage could be $3 to $4 per hour less than what is listed above. The point however still remains that even they are struggling greatly at the current minimum wage level.
On the campaign trail, Texas politicians spoke constantly about the desire for small government solutions to address the issues facing everyday Texans. Well for many people, raising the minimum wage is the best small government solution in existence. If politicians truly believe in such principles, it is time for them to prove it. The cities of Dallas, Houston, Austin San Antonio and El Paso should lead the way by increasing their minimum wage. Each of these municipalities is already a national leader in job creation and economic prosperity. And each of them are seeing the working poor struggle more and more to be able to make ends meet.
Many people are probably skeptical about the possibilities of increasing the minimum wage in any part of Texas. But with municipal elections fast approaching next year for many major cities, this is the right time to discuss and organize around the issue. If a relatively poor state like Arkansas can care enough about its citizens to raise the minimum wage, surely the economic powerhouses of Texas can do the same.