Nebraska minimum wage to rise to $9 an hour in new year

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s minimum wage is increasing by $1 to $9 an hour in 2016.

The increase for non-tipped workers starts Friday. It’s up from $8 an hour in 2015 and $7.25 before that.

The minimum wage increase is the final phase of a two-step hike approved by voters in 2014 following a petition drive, the Lincoln Journal-Star (http://bit.ly/1JMdfcc ) reported. Nebraska’s last minimum wage increase before that was in 2009.

Kathy Siefken, executive director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association, said she’s worried what the increase to $9 will mean for rural grocery stores.

“In order to pay that higher wage, they will have to increase the cost of goods or go out of business,” she said. “And people are very mobile. They will get in their cars when gas is below $2 a gallon and they will shop outside of their communities.”

Grocers backed a bill in the state Legislature this year to keep the minimum wage at $8 for most student workers 18 and younger. But it failed to get support from two-thirds of state legislators, which is required to modify a law enacted by public vote.

Siefken said supporters don’t plan another attempt to pass such legislation in 2016.

Angela Barry, whose family owns Lincoln’s A Street Market, said she would like to give pay bumps to reward longtime employees, but that the money will go toward young part-timers because of the minimum wage increase.

“We would love to give bigger raises, bonuses, that type of thing,” Barry said. “It really has taken that out of our hands.”

Owners of Lincoln’s Cultiva coffee company back the minimum wage increase. But co-owner Jason Anderson said it’s one of many reasons prices will go up in 2016.

Anderson said he would have preferred bumping up the minimum wage incrementally starting decades ago, in part to possibly lessen the impact on businesses.

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