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Kaylee Feight, who works at a sandwich shop in Helena, Mont., is among those getting a small, automatic raise in their minimum wage as of Jan. 1. Montana is among nine states where wages increased automatically to account for inflation.

Matt Gouras, Associated Press

In 10 states, new year brings pay bump

  • Article by: MIKE BAKER
  • Associated Press
  • December 31, 2012 - 8:14 PM

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

"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 residents of Washington state, which is raising its minimum wage Tuesday by 15 cents an hour even though it already has the highest state baseline in the country.

Minimum-wage workers in Idaho will make nearly $2 an hour less in 2013 than their counterparts living just one state west.

Automatic increases designed to compensate for inflation have steadily pushed up wages 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 in the past year.

The automatic adjustments aren't much. Washington's bump will mean those who work 40-hour weeks will earn an extra $6 a week -- about $300 a year.

Hundreds of thousands of workers are expected to get a pay increase with the wage adjustments that begin New Year's Day. Along with Washington and Rhode Island, the changes will occur in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Vermont.

Among the nine states with automatic adjustments, the average minimum wage is $8.12 an hour, up from a little under $8. States that do not have automatic changes operate with an average minimum wage of about $7.40 -- a difference of about $1,500 a year for a full-time worker.

Many states, including Idaho, follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, either because they've tied their minimum wage to that threshold or because the state-enacted minimum is lower than that.

Natasha Baker, 22, who works at Tom's 1st Avenue Bento in Portland, Ore., said the extra $5 or $6 she's earning every week with the salary boost is OK but won't make a huge difference. "I don't usually look at what I get paid," she said. "I'm more directed on what's being taken out, which is more discouraging than anything."

In Montpelier, Vt., restaurant owner Irene Facciolo said she supported the 14-cents-an-hour increase in the minimum wage for her employees. She said the move from $8.46 to $8.60 an hour wasn't much.

"We don't have a problem with it at all," Facciolo said.

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