August 29, 2014

Effort to raise state minimum wage dies in Unicameral

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist/Unicameral Information Office photo

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist/Unicameral Information Office photo

A bill that would have raised the state minimum wage to $9 an hour has failed to advance in the Unicameral.

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha opened debate, stating it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

“The purpose of this bill is to make sure hard work pays in Nebraska,” Nordquist told colleagues in his opening statement on LB 943.

Nordquist said that in 2012, 32,000 hourly workers in Nebraska earned the minimum wage.

LB 943 would increase the state minimum wage in three steps: $7.65 in 2015; $8.35 in 2016; and $9 in 2017.

Nordquist told his colleagues that not just teen-agers work minimum wage jobs. He claimed that 76% of those who work for the base state wage are at least 20-years-old.

“We’re running out of excuses not to support Nebraskans who want to work and provide for their families,” Nordquist said. “By raising the minimum wage through this bill we can affirm the dignity in a hard day’s work, we can rebuild the middle class and help families earn enough to meet their basic needs.”

Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln said LB 943 would boost both wages and the economy.

“This is about rewarding work. This is about lessening reliance on public assistance. This is about increasing productivity and employee retention and putting more money into the local economy,” Conrad said.

Supporters of the increase dominated debate. Opponents sat silently, knowing they had the votes to defeat the bill.

The final vote on advancement deadlocked at 20 votes apiece with three senators not voting. A bill must receive 25 votes to advance.