With midterm elections just one month away, businesses owners have plenty of worries including rising health-care costs and regulations. But one issue in particular looms large: the minimum wage.
Four states have proposals on their ballots to raise the minimum wage beyond the federal, hourly rate of $7.25—Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Notice a trend? All four are red states, and voter-approved wage gains in those predominantly Republican states could bolster the push for higher living wages—a key policy area for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.
While minimum wage often is perceived as a liberal issue, there's support for the cause across party lines nationwide, said Holly Sklar, director of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, a national group.
"Among the American public generally, and even among business people, there's strong support in red states," Sklar said. "It's much less partisan than the way it comes across in Congress."
Fast-food strikers have sought to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, while President Obama has worked to raise the federal hourly rate to $10.10 for federal contractors. Those efforts, though, have been stymied, and the outcome of the midterm elections could serve as important ammunition for both sides of the aisle.
On the November ballots, proposals in the four states seek to raise hourly wages to as high as $9.75. Hundreds of thousands of workers would be affected if voters in all four states approved the wage measures.
Currently,26 states plus Washington, D.C. have or will have wages above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour by 2015, according to the National Employment Law Project.
But what's the potential impact to small businesses, where cost changes potentially are felt more sharply compared with larger employers?