New Jersey voters will get to decide whether to raise the state's minimum wage tomorrow by ballot initative, and are almost certain to improve this measure. The new law will raise the minimum to $8.25 an hour, a dollar above the federal minimum, and ensure that this pay scale keeps up with inflation.
It's too bad there isn't a bigger ask here, at least $9 an hour, but the law will still be an important boost for low-wage workers in the state. A number of states have raised the minimum wage through ballot initiative, and this is a great example of states leading the way on an issue where progress is obstructed in Washington.
Few policy proposals enjoy stronger public support than raising the minimum wage, yet federal lawmakers generally ignore this issue -- in large part, as Demos has argued, because these lawmakers are more responsive to wealthy donors than ordinary Americans. Low-income Americans in particular have little voice in Congress, despite their huge numbers.
One other important thing about minimum wage ballot initiatives: Research shows that these measures boost voter turnout by exciting low-income voters who might otherwise stay home. I mean, think about it: How often do these voters get to go to the polls and vote on something that directly and immediately affects their lives? Not often. Tomorrow they'll get a chance to do exactly that in New Jersey.