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The states where the minimum wage is highest in 2020

© MoneyWise

By Doug Whiteman, MoneyWise

Do you remember the summer of 2009? Dancing to the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" or seeing The Hangover in a theater?

Summer of 2009 also was the last time the U.S. minimum wage went up. It has remained at $7.25 an hour ever since, in the longest stretch without an increase since the federal minimum wage was introduced in the 1930s.

But many states and cities have taken it upon themselves to give low-paid workers their raises. For example, Washington, D.C., has set its minimum wage at $14 an hour.

In 29 states, workers are paid minimums higher than what federal law requires. After a round of New Year's increases in the minimum wage, here are the 15 states that are on top, counting down to the one with the highest rate of all.


15. Hawaii

© Izabela23 / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $10.10 per hour

Hawaii makes this list, even though the state hasn't said "Aloha" to a minimum wage increase in a couple of years. The rate has stood at $10.10 an hour since Jan. 2018.

While that's higher than in most states, it doesn't go far in an island paradise where prices are higher than anywhere else in the U.S., according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Hawaii legislators in 2020 are expected to take a fresh look at a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.

The proposal stalled in 2019 as lawmakers disagreed over whether there should be a lower rate for workers who get health benefits through their jobs.


14. Alaska

© Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $10.19 per hour

The minimum wage in the state nicknamed "the Last Frontier" goes up automatically each New Year's Day to keep pace with inflation, thanks to a ballot measure voters approved in 2014.

Alaskans in the lowest-paying jobs have gotten a raise of 30 cents for 2020. The previous minimum was $9.89 an hour.

Like everyone else in Alaska, minimum-wage workers also receive annual payouts from the state's oil wealth fund. In 2019, every adult and child received a check for $1,606 — $6 more than in 2018 — to spend, save or invest.

School bus drivers in Alaska have their own pay floor: They're required to receive at least double the usual minimum wage.


13. Rhode Island

© Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $10.50 per hour

America's smallest state by area has one of the highest minimum pay levels. But some leaders in Rhode Island say the state's $10.50 minimum wage needs to be even higher, to stay competitive with neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts.

An estimated 20,000 workers in the Ocean State make the minimum. The state Senate passed legislation in June 2019 that would have raised their pay to $11.50 an hour at the start of 2020.

But the bill didn't make it to the governor's desk.

Rhode Island employers not only must obey the state's minimum wage law, but they're also required to pay workers time and a half for Sundays and holidays. A similar rule in Massachusetts is being phased out.


12. Vermont

© Erika J Mitchell / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $10.96 per hour

Though next-door New Hampshire has stuck with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, Vermont is lifting its rate by up to 5% per year to keep up with the cost of living.

Low-paid workers in the Green Mountain State got an 18-cent increase for 2020, up from the previous minimum wage of $10.78 an hour.

State lawmakers are expected to take final action this year on a bill that would put Vermont on a path toward a $15 minimum wage. But Republican Gov. Phil Scott vetoed a similar measure in 2018.

A state study found Vermont's minimum wage isn't enough to live on in. For a working couple to get by in the state, each partner needs to earn at least $13.34 per hour, the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office reported.


9. (tie) New Jersey

© ESB Professional / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $11 per hour

Minimum wage increases have become part of the fabric of New Jersey — like the state's unique law that doesn't let motorists pump their own gas.

A bill that the governor signed into law in early 2019 calls for annual $1 raises every January until 2024. That's when the Garden State's minimum will hit $15 for most workers.

The latest increase — from $10 to $11 as of Jan. 1 — put New Jersey among the 21 states raising the minimum wage for 2020.


9. (tie) Maryland

© Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $11 an hour

In Maryland, the state with the highest median household income ($83,242 in 2018, according to census data), the poorest workers have begun getting annual New Year's Day raises.

Like several other states on this list, Maryland is raising its minimum wage in stages, on the way to an eventual $15 an hour. That level will be reached in 2025, under a bill that became law last year.

For 2020, the minimum has increased from $10.10 to $11. In wealthy Montgomery County outside Washington, D.C., minimum-wage workers can make $13 hourly.

Maryland restaurant servers and other workers who earn tips may continue to receive base pay as low as $3.63 per hour.


9. (tie) Connecticut

© Jennifer Yakey-Ault / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $11 per hour

Connecticut also is marching its way toward a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

The next raise is scheduled for Sept. 1, 2020, when the rate will get bumped up to $12 hourly. It will keep climbing in phases until the magic level of $15 is achieved in June 2023.

Gov. Ned Lamont and fellow Democrats in the Connecticut legislature say a higher minimum wage will make the Nutmeg State more appealing for workers and stop people from leaving.


8. Oregon

© Bill45 / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $11.25 per hour

Minimum-wage workers in Oregon are getting raises every summer, under a 2016 law.

The next increase is scheduled for July 1, 2020, and will take the Beaver State's minimum to an even $12 an hour. The final hike in the series is scheduled for 2022, and will require that workers be paid at least $13.50 an hour.

After that, Oregon will make annual increases in line with inflation.

But here's something quirky: The state's standard minimum wage applies in fewer than half of Oregon's counties. The Portland metro area has a higher rate than $11.25 (now $12.50 an hour) and the rest of the state is called "nonurban" and has a lower one ($11).


7. New York

© spyarm / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $11.80 per hour

In New York, where subway fares, State Thruway tolls and upstate snowfall totals seem to go up routinely, the minimum wage is making regular increases, too.

Thanks to a New Year's Eve raise, workers across the Empire State are now earning a minimum of $11.80 an hour, up from $11.10 in 2019. The state is aiming to get to the $15-an-hour level in mid-2021.

Some areas are arriving there faster. New York City is already at $15, and suburban Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties are scheduled to join the Big Apple at $15 by the end of 2021.


4. (tie) Maine

© Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $12 per hour

In Maine — where you find more than 65 lighthouses, over 60,000 moose and a lobster industry worth $1.5 billion a year — the minimum wage has been rising steadily from $7.50 an hour, where it sat in 2016.

The last in a series of $1 New Year's Day raises has lifted the rate to $12 for 2020, from $11 last year.

Starting in 2021, the Pine Tree State's minimum will see smaller yearly increases, to keep in step with inflation.

Maine also has a new overtime rule making workers eligible for time and a half if they earn less than $36,000 annually. The old threshold was $33,000. Officials say the change means an additional 1,600 people will qualify for O.T.


4. (tie) Colorado

© Andrew Zarivny / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $12 per hour

The Centennial State's minimum wage just went up for the new year, from $11.10 in 2019.

And, for the first time, you can earn an even higher rate if you live in Denver. Taking advantage of a new law that allows Colorado cities to set their own minimums, the Mile High City in 2020 is requiring employers to pay at least $12.85 an hour.

Local officials said they needed the power to set their own pay floors, because many businesses in Colorado's urban areas have discovered it's tough to find people willing to work for low wages.

Denver's minimum wage is set to hit $15.87 in two years.


4. (tie) Arizona

© Dreamframer / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $12 per hour

The one they call the Grand Canyon State — which also is known for its Wild West history, college football's Fiesta Bowl and "dry heat" — has been steadily pushing up its minimum wage, under a ballot measure voters approved in 2016.

A New Year's hike has raised the rate to $12 for 2020, from $11 last year. Starting in Jan. 2021, annual increases will be pegged to the cost of living.

Flagstaff, Arizona, had a local ballot initiative in 2016 that gave the city its very own minimum wage, which just went up from $12 to $13.

Low-paid workers in Flagstaff can look forward to making a minimum of $15 an hour when a $2 increase takes effect in 2021.


3. Massachusetts

© Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $12.75 per hour

Massachusetts is yet another state driving toward a minimum wage of $15 an hour; the goal is to get there in 2023.

The latest step has given the Bay State's lowest-paid workers a 75-cent raise for 2020. The previous minimum was $12.

Massachusetts workers who receive tips just got a raise in their base pay from $4.35 to $4.95 hourly. They'll be getting $6.75 by 2023, but some members of the state legislature have argued that it's time to do away with the low "tipped wage."

Restaurant servers who count on tips say the income can be unpredictable. But restaurant lobbying groups say servers are already the highest-paid workers in many dining establishments.


2. California

© Lucky-photographer / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $13 per hour

In the heavily populated and pricey Golden State, the minimum wage has been going up by $1 a year, so that by 2022 California workers will be required to earn at least — you guessed it — $15 an hour.

The latest increase has taken the state's minimum from $12 to $13 in time for the new year.

But a number of California communities aren't waiting and are already at or above the $15 mark, especially in Silicon Valley. As of Jan. 1, San Jose is at $15.25, Apple's hometown of Cupertino is paying $15.35, and Palo Alto has a minimum of $15.40.

The state's leader is Emeryville, the San Francisco suburb that's home to the Toy Story animation studio Pixar. The minimum wage there is $16.30 an hour, and it's expected to go even higher in mid-2020.


1. Washington

© emperorcosar / Shutterstock

Minimum wage: $13.50 per hour

In Washington, a state known for soaring mountain peaks and skyscraping man-made wonders like the Seattle Space Needle, the minimum wage has gone to heights no other state has seen before.

A New Year's increase has raised the Evergreen State's minimum by $1.50 an hour for 2020, from the old rate of $12. Future statewide increases will be tied to inflation.

Meanwhile, two Washington cities have already reached the popular $15-an-hour level — and then some.

As of Jan. 1, large employers in Seattle must pay at least $16.39 an hour. And in SeaTac, which is home to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, hospitality and transportation workers now have a minimum wage of $16.34.

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