The ballot initiative is aimed at raising the minimum wage in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. (COLOGNE) – One of two initiatives for voters on Tuesday’s ballot will decide whether Nebraska should raise the minimum wage.

Currently, the minimum wage in Nebraska is $9 an hour. The proposed initiative would raise that rate by about $1.50 per year until 2026, to $15 an hour. For some, a yes vote is a no-brainer, but others say it could have unintended consequences.

Raising the minimum wage has been a contentious issue over the years. Come Tuesday, Nebraskans will weigh in on the issue.

“For years, wages have simply not kept pace with the cost of living, making it very difficult for families raising children to make the tough decisions to put food on the table or pay their rent,” said Kate Wolfe, campaign manager raising Nebraska wages.

Wolfe said about 300 local businesses have signed on to support the measure, many of which already pay more than the minimum wage. David Titterington, owner of the Wild Bird Habitat store, said the pay cuts benefit more than just their pocketbooks.

“That’s a retention rate of more than five years for our employees,” Titterington said. “So it saves us money, we don’t retrain people and we don’t re-introduce our staff to our clients.”

But others said the initiative could be flawed. Bud Sinhorst, president and CEO of the Lincoln Independent Business Association, said small businesses could feel the brunt of the measure.

“It’s really going to hurt those small-town hardware stores, grocery stores and even restaurants,” Sinhorst said. “And I think that reduces opportunities for young people to enter the job market and gain valuable skills to help them develop.”

The Nebraska Food Industry Association agrees. Ansley Fellers, the group’s executive director, said a universal mandate for wages doesn’t just work for everyone.

“It’s got that small, independent, rural feel, especially the stores, like everybody else,” Fellers said. “It could actually put some of them out of business. Those rural communities are left without grocery stores. It’s a big problem.”

At the end of the day, these are the same concerns that drove the last minimum wage hike in 2014. And once again, the final decision will be in the hands of the voters.

If it passes, the measure would allow the minimum wage to be adjusted annually to take into account inflation and the cost of living, when it reaches $15.

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