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Stories from the KUNR newsroom and regional partners related to the 2022 elections

Breaking down Nevada Question 2 to make minimum wage equal for all workers

Voting machines are separated by dividers. The screens show a hand entering a card into a slot. The machines are inside and in front of a large window showing green shrubbery.
Lucia Starbuck
/
KUNR Public Radio
Story
Transcript
Story

Nevada’s minimum wage is set to incrementally increase to $12 per hour for employees who aren’t offered health care benefits and $11 for those who are by 2024. Ballot Question 2 would make those wages the same.


What is Nevada’s minimum wage now?

Hourly employees who are offered health care insurance are paid $9.50 and those who do not receive benefits earn $10.50. The pay distinction was put into place by a 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment.

Both wages will increase by 75 cents per year until 2024, when employees who are offered benefits will make $11 per hour and $12 for those who aren’t. A 2019 state law created the yearly increase.


What would change if this measure passes?

It would change the state constitution by removing the language that allows for a different minimum wage between workers who are offered benefits or not, enshrining a $12 minimum wage in the constitution and ending cost-of-living adjustments. It would also ensure the state’s minimum wage meets the federal wage requirement, if it were to increase.


What do supporters say?

Many Democrats, labor organizations, and progressive groups already support raising the minimum wage.

Supporters say this is a fairness issue and every person making minimum wage should earn the same amount of money, regardless if they’re offered health care benefits or not.

“To a lot of people, $1 extra an hour doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you subtract that over and over and over again, each paycheck, that’s a lot of money,” said Battle Born Progress Executive Director Annette Magnus. “And in a worker’s pocket, these companies [are] essentially cheating them, because they’re skirting the rules and simply offering bogus health insurance plans.”


What does the opposition say?

Nevada Republicans, conservative groups, and some businesses are against raising the minimum wage.

Opponents say raising the minimum wage could push out unskilled employees and keep out those trying to enter the workforce, along with decreasing economic opportunity for young workers, though it could lead to them exploring higher-paying opportunities, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Forty-four percent of workers paid the federal minimum wage or less in the country are 16- to 24-year-olds, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Marcos Lopez, the outreach and coalitions director for the center-right think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute, agrees the difference in minimum wage pay should be removed, but says the measure doesn’t address poverty in the state.

“This is clearly a sign that we’re the dog chasing its tail. The fact that we haven’t found the right solution for this means that we’re not focusing on the real root of the problem,” Lopez said. “This whole debate is really a symptom of a much larger problem, which is how do we get people to find meaningful work? How do we help individuals rise among the economic scale?”


How does Nevada compare to other states in the U.S.?

Nevada ranks close to the middle compared to minimum wage rates in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It is also the only state that has a distinction for employees who are offered health care benefits or not in the state constitution, according to Ballotpedia.


What happens next if it’s approved?

Since the changes already passed through an assembly joint resolution, it only needs to be approved once by voters to go into effect.


Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Transcript

BERT JOHNSON, HOST: Nevada’s minimum wage is set to incrementally increase to $12 an hour for employees who aren’t offered health care benefits and $11 an hour for those who are by 2024. But, as KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck reports, ballot question number two would make those wages the same.

LUCIA STARBUCK, REPORTER: The hourly wage distinction was approved by voters in 2006. A state law in 2019 created the yearly increase. If approved, Ballot Question 2 would enshrine a $12 minimum [wage] in the state constitution and end cost-of-living adjustments.

Annette Magnus is executive director of the advocacy organization Battle Born Progress. She says some businesses are abusing a loophole and offering unattainable health care benefits in order to pay employees less.

EXCERPT FROM ANNETTE MAGNUS: To a lot of people, $1 extra an hour doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you subtract that over and over and over again, each paycheck, that’s a lot of money in a worker’s pocket that we’re talking about these companies essentially cheating them.

STARBUCK: While Marcos Lopez agrees with removing the difference in minimum wage pay, he says it won’t address poverty in the state. Lopez is the outreach and coalitions director for a center-right think tank called Nevada Policy Research Institute.

EXCERPT FROM MARCOS LOPEZ: The fact that we haven’t found the right solution for this means that we’re not focusing on the real root of the problem. This whole debate is really a symptom of a much larger problem, which is how do we get people to find meaningful work? How do we help individuals rise among the economic scale?

STARBUCK: The U.S. Department of Labor ranks Nevada close to the middle for minimum wage rates in the country. And according to Ballotpedia, it is the only state that has the distinction for employees who are offered benefits or not in its constitution.

For KUNR News, I’m Lucia Starbuck.

JOHNSON: This story was produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning journalist covering politics, focusing on democracy and solutions for KUNR Public Radio. Her goal is to provide helpful and informative coverage for everyday Nevadans.
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