South Dakota will vote on minimum wage increase

November 4, 2013

Labor advocates want to raise South Dakota’s minimum wage — not as high as $15 an hour, but more than $1 higher than it currently stands (Elaine Thompson/AP)

A coalition of Democratic Party activists and labor union backers will turn in enough petitions to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot in South Dakota next year, the party said Monday.

The group gathered more than 25,000 signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. State law requires 15,855 valid signatures to qualify an initiative. If the measure passes, South Dakota’s minimum wage would increase from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour, and it would include annual cost-of-living increases.

Democrats have been pushing minimum wage increases in several states this year. California legislators raised the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour, while Minnesota increased the minimum wage to $7.75 an hour. New Jersey voters will cast ballots on a wage increase of their own on Tuesday; polls show the measure passing by a wide margin.

In other states, Democrats have used the minimum wage as a tool to contrast themselves with Republicans. The legislatures in New Jersey and Maine passed minimum wage increases that Republican Govs. Chris Christie and Paul LePage vetoed. Arkansas Democrats called for a minimum wage increase that the Republican-led legislature refused to take up.

South Dakota is one of 32 states where the state minimum wage is in line with the federal level. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have wages higher than the $7.25 mandated by federal law. And South Dakota would be the 12th state to include a cost-of-living adjustment.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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