LINCOLN — Backers of increasing Nebraska’s minimum wage on Thursday turned in nearly twice as many petition signatures as needed to get the issue before voters in November.
Raise the Wage Nebraska submitted petitions containing around 160,000 signatures from all 93 counties to the Secretary of State’s Office. As proposed law change, their petition needs close to 87,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Nancy Williams, president and CEO of No More Empty Pots and a sponsor of the petition, said the proposed law would benefit nearly 150,000 Nebraska workers. She said they are people who are struggling to get by, especially with inflation driving up costs.
“No one working full-time should struggle to make ends meet,” she said. “The cost of groceries, housing and basics have gone up for years and inflation is now at record highs, but the minimum wage just hasn’t kept up.”
Cindy Meyer, a married mother of two elementary-aged children, is one such worker. She said she has worked for 19 years in various education, child care, retail and service industry jobs. All paid minimum wage or barely above it. At times, she said, she had to work multiple jobs to get by.
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“If everyone was earning at least $15 an hour, we would be able to take better care of ourselves, better care of our families and contribute more to our communities,” she said.
If passed by voters, the petition would raise the state’s minimum wage in four annual steps.
The minimum would increase from the current $9 per hour to $10.50 per hour on Jan. 1, eventually reaching $15 per hour by 2026. The measure also would provide for annual cost of living increases, starting in 2027.
Two other petition drives are expected to turn in signatures later on Thursday. Citizens for Voter ID has a press conference scheduled for the afternoon, while Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana plans to turn in signatures on a pair of petitions by the end of the day.
State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, the medical marijuana campaign’s co-sponsor, said both petitions have surpassed 90,000 signatures as of Thursday morning. He estimated that each petition will have between 90,000 to 100,000 signatures by then, which would provide only a small cushion if some signatures are found to be invalid.
“It’s going to be close, like we always said,” Morfeld said.
Check back with Omaha.com for updates on the other petition efforts.
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