BUSINESS
12/30/2014 10:01 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

More States Than Ever Will Raise Their Minimum Wage On New Year's Day

Lewis Wright via Getty Images

If you're a minimum wage earner and of drinking age, be sure to raise a glass when the ball drops Wednesday night. There's a decent chance you'll be getting a pay raise.

Thanks to a raft of state-level laws and ballot measures this year, 20 states will be hiking their minimum wages on New Year's Day -- evidence of a growing nationwide move toward higher mandatory pay despite congressional inertia on the issue.

With a proposal to raise the $7.25 federal minimum wage to $10.10 languishing on Capitol Hill, more and more states are choosing to bypass Congress and raise the wage floor on their own. That trend has even come to red states like Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, where voters approved various minimum wage ballot measures in the November elections.

The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute estimates that the new raises will boost the income of 3.1 million low-wage workers. That includes workers who currently earn minimum wage, as well as workers who earn slightly more than minimum wage but who are still likely to see an increase as employers adjust their pay scales upward. Of course, some employers may respond to the higher wage mandates by cutting hours, though for many workers the wage gains will cover the hours that may be lost.

The Jan. 1 pay raises will total about $1.6 billion in additional wages, which EPI says will act as a modest economic stimulus, since minimum wage workers are likely to spend the extra cash on groceries and other goods, rather than tucking it away or putting it in the stock market.

Minimum wage workers in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia will all see their pay go up on Jan. 1. Minimum wage workers in Delaware and Minnesota are also expected to receive a pay hike in June and August 2015, respectively. (For details on the specific amounts by which wages will go up in each state, take a look at EPI's data here.)

The upcoming wage hikes underscore the rift between congressional Republicans and the rest of the country when it comes to the minimum wage. The idea of raising the wage floor tends to poll extremely well, with at least two-thirds of respondents in most surveys supporting it, including many conservatives. Nevertheless, Congress hasn't authorized a federal minimum wage raise since 2009, with Republicans standing in the way of more recent efforts.

Yet as of the new year, for the first time a majority of states -- 29, to be exact -- will have minimum wages higher than the federal level. Many of those states have chosen to tie their wage floors to an inflation index, guaranteeing that the state minimum wage will rise over time along with the cost of living.

HuffPost readers: Are you seeing a raise due to the minimum wage hikes on New Years? Tell us about it.

As in years past, Washington state will continue to have the highest minimum wage, going up to $9.47 per hour from its current rate of $9.32 an hour. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont will also reach or surpass the $9 mark on New Year's Day.

In addition to the 20 states bringing their wage floors up on Jan. 1, New York will be raising its own state minimum wage from $8 to $8.75 on Dec. 31. Due to the state's large population and the 75-cent increase, New York has the highest number of workers poised to benefit from this week's wage hikes -- a projected 711,000 people -- of any state raising its wages this week, according to EPI.

These piecemeal raises represent a major victory for organized labor and its progressive allies, who in recent years have made large investments in state- and city-level minimum wage campaigns across the country. The raises also mark an accomplishment for fast-food workers involved in the union-backed Fight for $15 movement, who have effectively put a face to the low-wage workforce through their ongoing one-day strikes and protests.

Map by Amanda Terkel.

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