December 27, 2014

Voters likely to decide minimum wage hike (AUDIO)

Deputy Secretary of State Neal Erickson reaches for a box of signatures/Photo courtesy of Secretary of State's office

Deputy Secretary of State Neal Erickson reaches for a box of signatures/Photo courtesy of Secretary of State’s office

Organizers of a campaign to place a proposed increase in the state minimum wage before voters in November say they have more than enough signatures for success.

“Today, I’m proud to announce that thanks to the help of hundreds of citizens who donated thousands of volunteer hours, we will be submitting 134,899 signatures,” State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist was drowned out by cheers from supporters gathered for a late afternoon news conference Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda.

Supporters will need roughly 83,000 signatures from registered voters from enough Nebraska counties to make the November ballot. If successful, the issue will be the first initiative petition to make it to the voters since 2008.

Nebraskans for Better Wages piled box upon box of signatures in the Secretary of State’s office. An initiative must collect signatures from at least seven percent of the state’s registered voters, which must include at least five percent from 38 of the 93 counties.

Nordquist said it is past time to raise the minimum wage.

“We know that too many Nebraska working families across this state and across this country are struggling to afford the basics, like paying for a doctor’s visit or even a tank of gas,” Nordquist stated. “When that happens, the entire economy stalls. Wages are so low that thousands of full-time working Nebraskans are living below the poverty line.”

If the measure reaches the ballot, voters will be asked to raise the state minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $8 next year, then to $9 an hour in 2016. The last increase to the minimum wage came in 2009.

Nordquist complained that the current minimum wage is just too low.

“Nebraskans are working hard, but that hard work just isn’t paying.”

The Secretary of State’s office says the signatures will be sent to the appropriate county election authorities to verify the names. County election authorities have 40 days to complete the verification process. During that process, the Attorney General’s office will begin drafting ballot language for the initiative.

AUDIO:  State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha announces result of minimum wage petition drive. [:15]