Voter ID, minimum wage, airport funding ballot issues sail to victory
Wall art at the Douglas County Election Commissioner’s Office. (Cate Folsom/Nebraska Examiner)
OMAHA — Nebraska voters approved a trio of statewide ballot initiatives Tuesday, which means: Workers will get a minimum wage boost; people will have to provide photo ID in order to vote; and airports gained the power to use public funds to expand commercial flight offerings.
Initiative 433 raises Nebraska’s minimum wage gradually to $15 an hour by 2026 and calls also for annual inflation adjustments.
The win comes on the wings of a coalition of more than 300 Nebraska business owners supporting the lift. The initiative was approved with 62% of the vote.
“This is truly a citizen led and citizen approved initiative,” said Kate Wolfe, campaign manager for Raise the Wage Nebraska. “We feel grateful. … This is going to give hard-working Nebraskans a much needed raise. It is not only going to help families and businesses, but it will help make our community stronger.”
She said that of the 95,000 Nebraskans estimated to be affected, about 75% are over the age of 20.
Advocates petitioned the measure onto the ballot with 97,245 signatures, including the required 5% from registered voters in at least 38 counties.
Specifically, the measure starts off by raising the minimum hourly wage from $9 to $10.50 in 2023, and increases it each year thereafter by $1.50, through 2026. Annual cost of living adjustments would come also, so the minimum wage does not lose purchasing power.
Critics have argued that the mandatory raises could make inflation worse and that pay raises should be determined by the free market.
Initiative 432 requires Nebraskans to show a photo identification to vote.
Its victory, with 60 percent of voters approving the initiative, comes after a decade of failed efforts in the Legislature.
The Voter ID petition, sponsored by State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, required 10% of registered voters in the state because it calls for an amendment to the Nebraska Constitution.
Proponents secured 136,458 validated signatures and exceeded the percentage threshold needed in 38 counties.
Advocates say the Voter ID mandate should bring more confidence to the accuracy of state elections.
Opponents are concerned it will add a barrier for some elderly, poor and minority voters that may lack state identification.
Now the Nebraska Legislature is tasked with determining specifics of how to implement the requirement.
Another change to the state’s constitution comes with Tuesday’s passage of Amendment 1, which allows Nebraska cities and counties with airports to use public funds to expand commercial flights in and out of their airports.
Amendment 1 was the ballot initiative with the least public discussion, until a bipartisan trio of lawmakers in mid-October traversed Nebraska to promote it, saying other states have used this tool for a competitive edge in attracting airlines or new flights. The amendment was approved with 80% of the vote.
State Sen. Eliot Bostar of Lincoln, one of the three, said his hope is that airports now will return to the bustle and flight offerings of a few years ago.
“We’ve been losing routes. We’ve been losing carriers,” said Bostar, himself a pilot. “So my hope is we will now finally be able to turn that around.”
Supporters said the amendment affects nine airports at first, allowing their governing boards the ability to guarantee a minimum amount of revenue, or subsidy, to an airline for adding the new flight.
Amendment 1 drew no critics earlier this year when it was aired during a public hearing before the Legislature’s Revenue Committee.
It advanced swiftly, with a unanimous 47-0 vote by Nebraska legislators, to land a spot on the ballot. There was no public organized opposition.
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