Nevada sheds two-tiered minimum wage, puts $12 per hour floor in constitution
Question 2 also makes clear that the Legislature has the authority to raise the minimum wage even higher. (Photo: lizchen/Getty Images)
Nevada’s unusual minimum wage system will soon be a thing of the past, unofficial election results show.
As of Friday, the Nevada secretary of state was reporting that 54% of voters approved Question 2, which sets the state minimum wage at $12 per hour for all employees and removes a provision that allows employers to pay workers $1 less per hour if they offer health insurance. It will go into effect July 1, 2024.
While additional ballots are still being processed, Question 2 was 80,337 votes ahead, making it statistically highly unlikely that the final outcome would change.
Nevada is the only state with a two-tiered minimum wage system.
Nevada’s minimum wage was already scheduled to rise on July 1, 2024 to $12 per hour for employees who are not offered health insurance. That’s because the Nevada State Legislature passed a bill in 2019 to step up the minimum wage by 75 cents annually until it reached $12 per hour in 2024.
The passage of Question 2 will bring employees offered health insurance up to that payrate.
The constitutional amendment also makes clear that the Legislature has the authority to raise the minimum wage even higher.
Proponents of Question 2 argued that the two-tiered system benefited greedy employers, which offer subpar health insurance in order to pay workers the lower tier minimum wage. They have argued that many minimum wage workers are declining such insurance because premiums and copays are still too costly, which means they are left with no insurance but still stuck earning at the lower minimum wage rate.
Question 2 also removes existing language in the Nevada Constitution that establishes a method for automatically adjusting the state minimum wage based on federal minimum wage increases (that fall short of $12) and cost of living increases. Those provisions were added into the state constitution by voters in 2006’s Minimum Wage Amendment but in practice have not led to continual increases to workers’ wallets.
Nevada’s hourly minimum wage rates remained flat at $7.25 and $8.25 from 2010 to 2019. They were raised in 2019 only because of legislative action by the Democratic-controlled statehouse and governorship.
According to Ballotpedia, 26 minimum wage increase proposals have appeared on statewide ballots between 1996 and 2021. All but two (both in 1996) were approved by the voters in their respective states.
Nevada’s 2006 ballot question passed with 68.7% support – notably a higher percentage than this year’s ballot question.
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