Nebraska voters to decide minimum wage increase, voter ID requirement this November

Nebraska residents will be voting on two initiatives this November.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 11:39 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska residents will be voting on two initiatives this November.

According to Secretary of State Bob Evnen, election officials have verified the signatures for two different ballot initiatives: the Voter ID Constitutional Amendment and Nebraska Minimum Wage Statute.

The Voter ID Amendment, known as Initiative Measure 432, would require Nebraska residents to present a valid ID to vote in the state.

The Minimum Wage Statute, known as Initiative Measure 433, would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026.

Nebraska law requires a petition ballot initiative to have signatures from at least 7% of registered voters across the state - a minimum of 86,776 people, and at least 5% of registered voters in 38 counties.

A constitutional amendment petition requires a minimum of 10% of registered voters across the state - at least 123,966 people.

“After careful review by our counties, I can confirm that the statutory requirements for valid signatures have been met by both the Voter ID and the Minimum Wage initiatives,” Bob Evnen said. “I have reviewed the initiatives, and both are in compliance with the law. Both the Voter ID and Minimum Wage initiatives will be placed on the ballot for the November general election.”

One of the petition organizers for the Voter ID Constitutional Amendment is State Sen. Julie Slama. In the past, she’s said a voter ID law would help prevent fraud.

“Prevents noncitizens from casting ballots,” Slama said. “Prevents voters from using false or inaccurate voter registrations, makes it easier to detect when people are registered in multiple states and ensures they’re receiving only one vote.”

Raise the Wage Nebraska - the organization behind the petition to increase the minimum wage - claims increasing the state’s minimum hourly wage would benefit nearly 150,000 workers.

“This is great news for Nebraska workers and families,” said Nancy Williams, the President and CEO of No More Empty Pots and sponsor of the initiative petition. “One in five workers who will benefit is a parent supporting children and trying to make ends meet. The reality is that the cost of groceries, housing, and basics have gone up for years, and the minimum wage hasn’t kept up.”

Nebraska’s current minimum wage is $9 per hour.

The idea behind phasing in the minimum wage increases is to allow businesses time to adjust.

The wage increases would come slowly if the initiative passes. The first increase would be in Jan. 2023 to $10.50 per hour. Minimum wage workers would see their bi-weekly pay rise from roughly $720 to $840 - an increase of $3,120 per year.

Further increases would happen annually until 2026 when the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour or $31,200 annually.

The idea behind phasing in the minimum wage increases is to allow businesses time to adjust.

However, opponents have often said it will hurt businesses that hire teenagers and have entry-level positions.

Economists with the Employment Policies Institute, a fiscally conservative, non-profit American think tank in D.C., argue that restaurants would be hurt most by the minimum wage increase - an industry already struggling through a pandemic and worker shortage.

The argument is ‘what good is a wage increase if it forces a business to close its doors?’

On the other hand, some businesses say the wage increase would directly benefit thousands of Nebraska residents.

Raygun Clothing employs 110 people in all sorts of different jobs across a number of midwest communities. From here in Omaha in the Old Market, to Kansas City, Chicago and four cities in Iowa - including Des Moines and Iowa City.

The owner Mike Draper says he starts his employees at $14 an hour, and that goes to $15 an hour on Oct. 1.

He says raising the minimum wage is less about bringing it up arbitrarily - but keeping it in line with other increases.

“Our long-time support for raising the minimum wage is not that we want a communist utopia to take hold,” Draper said. “It’s just the minimum wage has become this odd loophole where it’s the only thing not connected to other rising costs. So while social services and the floor to qualify for those has steadily gone up - minimum wage has remained the same. Which often times means we will be subsidizing our competition’s workforce.”

Ultimately, Nebraska voters will be the ones to decide in November whether the minimum wage will be increased.

Secretary Evnen says there will be three public hearings about the initiatives in each of the state’s three congressional districts. Times and locations of the meetings are expected to be announced at a later date.