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U.S. minimum wage gap increases between states

Jan. 01, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- With a bump in the minimum wage to $9.19 an hour on Tuesday, high school student Miranda Olson will edge closer to her goal of purchasing that black Volkswagen Beetle she's been researching online.

Olson is only able to pick up part-time hours, working after classes and on weekends. But the extra pennies she'll earn in 2013 will add up over the coming weeks and months.

"It's not much, but it's something," said Olson, 16, who works at Wagner's European Bakery and Cafe in Olympia. "Every bit helps."

Many workers around the country won't be as lucky as the ones in Washington state, which is raising its salary minimum even though it already has the highest state baseline in the country. Workers one state over -- in Idaho -- will make nearly $2 per hour less in 2013.

Automatic minimum wage increases designed to compensate for inflation have steadily pushed up salaries in some states, even through the recession, expanding the pay gap between areas that make annual adjustments and those that don't. Of the 10 states that will increase the minimum wage Tuesday, nine did so automatically to adjust for inflation.

Rhode Island lawmakers approved that state's wage increase this past year.

Paul Sonn, legal co-director at the National Employment Law Project, said he hopes more states will start looking at automatic adjustments as the economy recovers. He said the model -- which Washington state first adopted in 1998 -- helps avoid sudden jolts as states try to catch up to their peers.

"We think there's a case that it's better for everyone, including the business community, to have predictable, regular, small increases every year," Sonn said.

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