- Associated Press - Thursday, October 23, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Supporters of a higher minimum wage took their message to Nebraska’s airwaves in the final few weeks before voters decide whether to approve a gradual increase to $9 an hour.

The group Nebraskans for Better Wages has spent an estimated $79,000 on ads supporting the ballot measure, according to analysis released Thursday by the Center for Public Integrity. The ads that were counted started airing the week of Sept. 28 and continued through Oct. 11.

That amount is certain to increase between now and the Nov. 4 election. The group plans to unveil a new statewide ad Sunday aimed at women, who account for roughly 70 percent of Nebraska’s minimum-wage earners.

“We’re very much partnering our media campaign with a grass-roots effort to try to make sure people are aware that (the wage measure) is on the ballot,” said state Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, a spokesman for the campaign.

The proposal would increase Nebraska’s minimum wage in increments, from the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour by 2016.



Nordquist said the ads also seek to clarify that the proposed increase isn’t as large as a measure championed by President Barack Obama that would boost the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

The center’s analysis covers television ads on local broadcasts in the nation’s 210 media markets, as well as national network and cable television advertising. Ads that run on local cable channels were not counted, and the estimates don’t include radio or online ads.

Nebraska is the only state so far this year to see ads aimed at a minimum wage ballot measure. Voters in Alaska, Arkansas and South Dakota will also consider such increases, and Illinois voters will cast ballots on a non-binding resolution designed to boost Democratic turnout.

Television ad spending on Nebraska’s Initiative 425 amounts to about 6 cents per eligible voter.

Supporters of the Nebraska wage measure have far outraised a small group of opponents, who have relied on going door-to-door in Omaha and holding small town-hall meetings to try to spread their message.

Nebraskans for Better Wages has received more than $1.2 million in contributions as of Sept. 30, according to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. Among the largest donors are unions, groups that advocate for low-income Nebraskans and philanthropist Dick Holland, a prominent Democratic contributor.

“We just can’t match that broadcasting of our message statewide as long and loud as the proponents of the minimum wage increase,” said Doug Kagan, president of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, which opposes the measure. “They have so much more money than we do, and more access to TV and radio advertising.”

Some small business owners have voiced opposition to the measure, but Nebraska’s largest business groups haven’t aggressively challenged it. The president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said most members already pay well above the minimum wage and don’t view it as a major concern.

Nebraska’s last minimum wage increase came in 2009, and 23 states have imposed rates above the federal minimum wage, including border states of Colorado and Missouri. New Jersey approved an $8.25 hourly minimum wage last year.

A February report by the Congressional Budget Office estimated the Obama-backed federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour could cost 500,000 jobs nationwide. But the 13 states that raised their minimum wages at the beginning of 2014 added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not, according to a Labor Department analysis of state-by-state hiring data in July.

Nationally, television ad spending on various ballot issues totaled roughly $119 million through Oct. 20.

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Online:

Center for Public Integrity study: https://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/09/22/15734/whos-calling-shots-states

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