$15 minimum wage on Nebraska ballot, experts say it won't have much effect

Posted at 6:53 PM, Sep 06, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — After attempts to raise the minimum wage consistently failed to pass in the Unicameral the issue will now be decided by the people of Nebraska in November.

If passed, beginning next year the minimum wage will jump $1.50 every year, until it’s $15 per hour in 2026.

“For most occupations and most industries that’s not much of an impact,” said Dr. Ernie Goss, professor of economics and finance at Creighton University.

Goss said very little will happen if the minimum wage goes to $15.

While he sees some issues near the Iowa border, potentially more automation, and fears further damage to the hotel industry, he says businesses already are forced to raise pay.

“The real impact that employers have is finding and hiring workers. So they’re raising rates, raising wages already,” said Goss.

At RAYGUN, a regional clothing shop known for their clever t-shirt slogans, they’re beginning to pay employees $15 dollars an hour in the fall with owner Mike Draper saying the market demands it.

“So, It’s less about adding some unnecessary new regulations as it is bringing the minimum wage closer to what it actually is in real life,” said Draper.

That appears to be true. Searches for jobs in the Omaha-metro show that most jobs pay well above $15, but a few jobs such as grocery store clerk and part-time government jobs, pay less.

No group has formally come out against the raise in wages. The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce President Bryan Slone said in a statement that the minimum wage should be the same across the country, something not the case now.

And agreed that a worker shortage is already causing wage hikes.

“A workforce shortage and market forces have already driven wages in most cases to, and often well past, the $15 an hour level. So, enactment of the legislation is unlikely to have much effect,” said Slone.

Goss said if passed, it still may force business owners to make tough decisions.

“Well, it’s clear if you don’t create $15 of value then you don’t get hired,” said Goss.

He also said the minimum wage hike would be more effective if did not jump to $15 per hour for young people. He wishes there was a carveout to ensure they would keep getting hired as teens.

“That will be supportive of those workers — get that first job, getting going in their career.”

Nebraskans last raised the minimum wage in 2014, upping it from the federal wage of $7.25, to $9 an hour.

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