Spotlight Exclusives

Medicaid Expansion, Minimum Wage Increases Top Midterm results

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

Voters in traditionally Republican states approved Medicaid expansion and increases in the minimum wage in Tuesday’s midterm elections, two notable results on poverty-related issues that could help build bipartisan support across the nation.


Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah passed ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid, providing access to health coverage for about 300,000 working adults. Idaho voters approved Medicaid expansion with more than 61 percent of the vote; Nebraska with 53 percent; and Utah with 54 percent.

Final results from a Montana Medicaid expansion initiative were not available as of Wednesday morning, but the measure appeared to have failed. With 70 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was trailing by a 55 percent to 45 percent vote.

A handful of gubernatorial elections also should increase the chances for Medicaid expansion in those states.

  • In Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly’s victory could mean enactment of a Medicaid expansion bill passed by the state legislature but opposed by Gov. Jeff Colyer.
  • In Maine, Democrat Janet Mills won the contest to succeed Republican Gov. Paul LePage and has promised to implement the Medicaid expansion approved by Maine voters last year via ballot initiative but blocked by LePage.
  • In Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers defeated Republican Gov. Scott Walker and has promised to pursue Medicaid expansion.

In other states that did not expand Medicaid after the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Republican candidates who oppose the policy were victorious.

  • In Florida, Ron DeSantis defeated Andrew Gillum.
  • In Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt defeated Drew Edmonson.
  • In South Dakota, Kristi Noem defeated Billie Sutton.

Medicaid expansion also was a key issue in the Georgia gubernatorial race, where Republican Brian Kemp leads Democrat Stacey Abrams.  Abrams has refused to concede, citing the possibility of a runoff if neither candidate receives 50 percent after all votes are tallied. Abrams supports Medicaid expansion; Kemp does not. Abrams also supports passage of a Georgia Earned Income Tax Credit that would allow qualified residents to seek credits totaling at least 5 percent of the federal credit.


Gubernatorial results may also affect seven states that are seeking waivers to establish work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Republicans who favor work requirements won or were re-elected in Arizona, Arkansas, Ohio, and South Dakota, while Democrats were victorious in Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin.


Meanwhile, voters in Missouri and Arkansas approved substantial increases to their state minimum wages, victories in conservative-leaning states that may prompt more such ballot initiatives in 2020 as voters across the political spectrum endorsed higher pay for low-wage workers.

Arkansas voted to increase the state’s current minimum wage of $8.50 an hour to $9.25 on January 1, 2019, $10 on January 1, 2020 and $11 on January 1, 2021, hiking salaries for a quarter of the state’s workforce.  The ballot measure in Arkansas — known as Issue 5 — passed with 68 percent of the vote.

61% of Missouri voters approved Proposition B, a gradual increase of the state’s $7.85 an hour minimum wage to $12 an hour over the next five years.  The increase is expected to result in more than 675,000 workers getting a raise.

Other results of ballot initiatives that touch on poverty and opportunity issues:

  • Florida voters approved Amendment 4, automatically restoring voting rights in the state for people previously convicted of felonies as long as they have completed their sentences, although anyone convicted of murder or felony sex offenses would be excluded. Based on the Sentencing Project’s 2016 estimates, this will benefit more than a million people. The organization estimated in 2016 that nearly 1.5 million people in Florida have completed felony sentences but can’t vote — about 9.2 percent of the voting-age population in Florida.
  • Colorado voters overwhelmingly supported a measure that limits the interest lenders can charge on payday loans in the state at 36 percent per year. Proposition 111 won the support of more than 75 percent of state voters.
  • San Francisco voters passed Proposition C, a first-of-its-kind tax measure that has divided the tech community about how best to respond to the city’s homelessness crisis. Supported by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and opposed by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Prop. C will raise the city’s gross receipts tax by an average of .5 percent on annual gross receipts over $50 million. The new funds will bring in an estimated $250 million to $300 million a year — twice what the city currently spends on an annual basis to help the homeless.
  • Maine voters rejected a proposal to create a universal home care program by instituting a 3.8 percent surtax on income of more than $128,400 in adjusted gross income. The measure was opposed by more than 60 percent of Maine voters.
  • Photo ID will now be required at the polls in North Carolina after voters approved an amendment to their state constitution on Tuesday. The state legislature, where Republicans have a majority, will get to decide what kinds of ID are allowed and what exceptions to make for people who don’t have acceptable ID.
  • Louisiana voters passed Amendment 1, prohibiting convicted felons from holding public office for five years after serving a sentence.
  • Oregon voters rejected Measure 103, which would have prohibited most new taxes on grocers and banned soda taxes anywhere in the state.
  • Arizona voters defeated a proposal, Proposition 126, that would have banned taxes on services.
  • Florida voters approved a ballot measure requiring a two-thirds vote by the state legislature for any future tax increases.
  • North Carolina voters approved an initiative lowering North Carolina’s income tax cap from 10 percent to 7 percent.
  • California voters rejected a measure to undo recent increases to state fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, protecting billions of dollars in funding for road maintenance and other transportation projects.

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