By: Rob Whitman and Nadia Bandukda

Four states will have a higher minimum wage after voters cast their ballots on Election Day.  Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota are the latest states to join 13 others that enacted higher wages earlier this year.  In Arkansas, the minimum hourly wage will increase from $6.25 to $8.50 by 2017.  In Nebraska, it will rise from $7.25 to $9 by 2016.  Almost 70% of voters in Alaska voted for an increase to $9.75 by 2016, and in South Dakota, voters approved an increase from $7.25 to $8.50 by 2015.

Illinois also held an advisory vote, which serves as a nonbinding opinion poll.  Although voters expressed approval for an increased raise minimum wage, from $8.25 to $10, the vote is not binding and does not require any action by the state legislature or Governor.

The 13 other states that have increased their minimum wage this year include Connecticut, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Major U.S. cities will also see minimum wage increases.  San Francisco is set to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2018, the same rate as Seattle, which approved an increase earlier this year.  Thus, by 2015, full-time workers in these cities receiving minimum wage would be paid $31,000 annually.  Oakland will also raise its minimum wage from $9 to $12.25 in March 2015, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has put his support behind an increase to $13.25 by 2017.

To date, a total of 23 states, and the District of Columbia, have a minimum wage above $7.25, the current federal rate. The prospects for a federal increase do not appear bright after the midterm elections, but some pundits have suggested that this may be an area where the President and Congress could reach a compromise, especially in light of the voting results at the state level.  One proposal that received strong support in the last Congress was the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would have increased the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over three years.  According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (a labor-backed research group that supports raising the minimum wage), about 21 million U.S. workers would have been directly affected by such an increase.

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