Washington Post: Conservative Arkansas could soon have the highest effective minimum wage in the country

By Heather Long
Washington Post, November 8, 2018

Photo Caption: Capi Peck, second from right, huddles with some of her kitchen crew right before the busy lunch period begins at Trio's Restaurant in Little Rock. Peck has owned Trio's for 32 years and was an outspoken supporter of the campaign to raise Arkansas' minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas is likely to have the highest effective minimum wage in the country soon, setting up a grand experiment in whether a high minimum wage in a poor state can raise workers out of poverty — or derail the state’s economy.

Voters in Arkansas on Election Day overwhelmingly approved a minimum-wage increase to $11 an hour by 2021. Given the state’s low cost of living and modest salaries, entry-level workers will soon be better off financially in Arkansas than in places such as California, New York and the District of Columbia that are hiking their minimum wages to $15 an hour. By 2021, a minimum wage worker in Arkansas will earn nearly 70 percent as much as the median worker in the state, according to analysis by Jeremy Horpedahl, assistant professor of economics at the University of Central Arkansas.. ...

“I voted for it. I’m very proud of Arkansas for this,” said Capi Peck, the longtime owner of Trio’s Restaurant in Little Rock. “Voters sent a very progressive message on wages in a state that is not very progressive.” ...

Peck has 50 employees and starts people out at $9.50, a dollar above the state’s current minimum wage of $8.50. She knows she will have to raise her pay as the minimum wage goes up to $9.25 in January, $10 in January 2020 and $11 in January 2021, but she says after three decades in the restaurant industry, she’s learned how to adjust ingredients to manage costs or raise prices when she has to. “Nobody is going to be put out of business by this,” she said. ...

Arizona was the only red state above $10 before this week’s election. Now Missouri and Arkansas are on their way to joining those ranks. ...

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Copyright 2018 Washington Post

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