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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Impact of minimum wage hike likely a wash, UNL economist says

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LINCOLN — A ballot proposal to increase Nebraska’s minimum wage would make a big difference for Katherine Doiel and Gary Tharnish.

For Doiel, Initiative 425 would mean bringing home another $10 to $15 a week from her job as an assistant convenience store manager in Lincoln.

“That goes a long ways. That’s food on the table,” she said.

For Tharnish, it would mean hiring one fewer part-timer and doing more work himself at his longtime Lincoln flower shop. He also would look for ways to cut other expenses.

“Will I survive if the minimum wage goes up? I will, but it’s hard,” Tharnish said.

But the measure would make little difference for most Nebraskans or the state’s overall economy, according to a leading Nebraska economist.

Scott Fuess, a labor economist and chairman of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s economics department, said raising the minimum wage would neither drive up unemployment nor boost consumer spending significantly.

“This is no big deal,” he said. “One way or another, the day after the election, the economy is not going to zoom ahead and it’s not going to crash.”

Nebraska voters will decide Initiative 425 in the Nov. 4 general election.

If passed, the proposal would increase the state’s minimum wage in two steps. It would go from the current $7.25 an hour to $8 an hour for 2015, then to $9 an hour in 2016.

Nebraskans for Better Wages — backed by some of the...

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