Ballot initiative looks to increase Nebraska’s minimum wage

Minimum Wage
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Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 10:23 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -One of the two initiatives for voters on Tuesday’s ballot will be to decide if Nebraska should raise minimum wage.

Currently, Nebraska’s minimum wage sits at $9 per hour. The proposed initiative would raise that rate by about $1.50 each year until 2026 to $15 per hour. For some, voting yes is a no-brainer, but others say there could be unintended consequences.

Over the years, raising the minimum wage been a hotly-contested issue. Come Tuesday, Nebraskans will weigh in on that topic.

“For years now, wages just have not caught up with the cost of living and it makes it very difficult for families raising children who have to make the difficult decisions to put food on the table or pay their rent,” said Kate Wolfe, campaign manager for Raise the Wage Nebraska.

Wolfe said about 300 local businesses have signed on to support the measure, many of which already pay above minimum wage. David Titterington, owner of Wild Bird Habitat Store, said bumping employees’ pay is beneficial to more than just their pocket books.

“That retention rate is well above five years for our employees,” Titterington said. “So it saves us money, we’re not retraining people and reintroducing our staff to our customers.”

But others said there could be cons to the initiative. Bud Synhorst, president and CEO of Lincoln Independent Business Association, said small businesses could feel the brunt of the measure.

“It’s really going to hurt those small town hardware stores and grocery stores and even restaurants,” Synhorst said. “And I think it lessens the opportunities for young people to enter into the job market and gain valuable skills to help them grow.”

The Nebraska Grocery Industry Association agrees. Ansley Fellers, the group’s executive director, said a blanket mandate for wages just won’t work for everyone.

“It treats those small, independent, and rural, especially stores, like everybody else,” Fellers said. “This really could drive some of them out of business. Those rural communities are left without a grocery store. That’s a huge problem.”

At the end of the day, these are similar concerns that were voiced back in 2014, the last time minimum wage was bumped up. And once again, the final decision will be in the voters’ hands.

If it were to pass, the measure would allow for the minimum wage to be adjusted each year for inflation and cost of living once it reaches the $15 mark.