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House bill calls for voter referendum on minimum wage

A new House bill would allow North Carolina residents to vote on raising the state's minimum wage, plus give local governments more leeway in setting their own.

House Bill 1046 would allow voters to decide in November whether to amend the North Carolina Constitution to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour, plus yearly cost of living adjustments. That's equivalent to about $18,000 a year in full-time wages. The federal poverty threshold for a single-person household is $12,331.  Download Poverty thresholds

In an apparent rebuke to House Bill 2, the legislation would also allow any public body to raise its minimum wage above the state's. One of the overlooked portions of HB2 is the prohibition against local governments to set a minimum wage that is greater than the one set by the state. That wage is the same as the federal amount, $7.25 an hour.

Nationwide, including in Durham, social justice advocates have been demanding the hourly wage be increased to $15, equivalent to $31,000 annually in full-time wages. Last month, California and New York became the first states to do just that, although not immediately; their respective governors signed bills into law that stagger the increases. California will raise its minimum from $10 to $15 by 2022; New York will reach that benchmark around the same time, although workers in New York City could earn the new minimum by 2018.

According to Raise the Minimum Wage, 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, have set their minimum wage above the federal level. Ten states currently adjust minimum wage increases each year: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.  

The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2009.

The bill has several co-sponsors, including Graig Meyer, a Democrat representing parts of Durham and Orange counties. It will be introduced today when the House convenes at 3 p.m.


Thomas Matthews

There's a huge argument to allow local areas to raise wages. The Triangle could probably bear 12-15 per hour. Many of the min wage jobs are service jobs that cannot be moved outside the area and therefore won't be shed to wage hikes. More rural areas however might have more negative effects from a min wage hike. Let's undo another major caustic effect of HB2.

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