California voters to decide on raising minimum wage


SACRAMENTO — Californians will have the chance to vote on raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. An initiative officially qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2021.

If approved, the new wage would benefit approximately 3.3 million people. California would jump past Oregon for the highest statewide minimum wage in the nation. In March, Oregon enacted a three-tiered system that includes a $14.75 wage for the high-cost Portland metro area and lower wages for smaller rural cities.

Several cities across the country have moved to raise their wages. In the California, legislators in Los Angeles, Mountain View, Emeryville and the County of Los Angeles approved $15 wages that will phase in between 2018 and 2021.

California’s Secretary of State’s office certified that organizers had collected the necessary 402,468 signatures for the initiative to be immediately placed on the November ballot.

The initiative would raise the minimum wage to $11 in 2017, increasing it $1 each year until it hit $15 in 2021. The wage would then be automatically adjusted to keep pace with California’s cost of living. The current wage in California is $10 per hour or slightly less than $21,000 per year for a full time worker.

“California has often been the incubator of ideas and policies that spread across the country – this initiative fits that mold and will make our state the leader in the fight against income inequality,” said California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a press release.

Advocates say the initiative will improve the lives of millions, generate more income tax revenue, reduce government spending needed to aid the poor and grow the economy. Those against the higher wage claim that it will drive businesses from the state, reduce hiring and kill thousands of jobs.

The initiative has been endorsed by labor unions, 300 community organizations and political leaders including Newsom, California Controller Betty Yee, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

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