Floridians on Tuesday voted to raise the state’s minimum wage over the next few years to $15, in a vote that makes the state the eighth to adopt that pay floor and that could spur a renewed push for a higher minimum wage in other states.
A little after 11 p.m., with about 10.4 million votes counted, 61.3% of Floridians supported the ballot initiative that would bring the state’s minimum wage from $8.56 to $15 by 2026, according to the Associated Press. That was a hair above the 60% threshold required to pass the amendment. The proposal was one of the most closely watched on election night by the business community.
The move, opposed by the state’s large restaurant and hospitality industries battered by the hit to revenue because of the pandemic, is likely to impact a large segment of Florida’s workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over 1 million Floridians in September worked in the low-wage leisure and hospitality sector, out of 9.37 million employed people.
Employment in those industries in September was 18.7% below year-earlier levels, an improvement over the 42% year-over-year decrease in April, but indicative of the distress still felt by such a big part of Florida’s economy as Americans have gone on vacation less often.
While advocates have argued that the higher minimum wage would lift hundreds of thousands of Floridians out of poverty and allow them to pump more money into the economy, industry groups vociferously opposed the wage hike. Both the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association have argued that the higher minimum wage could lead to job losses and hurt businesses already struggling during the pandemic.
There is no consensus on whether the higher income outweighs job losses in the aggregate for those workers, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found last year that a $15 minimum wage would cost 1.3 million Americans their jobs.
The federal minimum wage has been at $7.25 since 2009, and many states, including Florida’s neighbors Georgia and Alabama, follow the federal rate. Other states to have increased the minimum wage to $15 include California, New Jersey, and Illinois. The $15 level is one that anti-poverty advocates have championed for years, and some large companies, notably Amazon and Target, have adopted as a floor wage.
Florida’s Amendment 2 will raise the minimum wage to $10 next year, then another $1 per hour every year until 2026. It was included on the 2020 ballot in December after Florida’s Supreme Court gave its approval.