Voters in six states approved ballot measures boosting their minimum wage above the federally mandated $5.15 an hour, getting a jump on newly empowered Democrats in Congress who have vowed to raise the wage nationwide.

The measures won with support ranging from 76 percent in Missouri to 53 percent in Colorado, where business groups mounted an aggressive opposition campaign. Arizona, Montana, Nevada and Ohio also approved increases, joining 23 other states that already have set their minimum wages above the federal level.

The measures were placed on this year’s ballots through citizen petition drives led by the AFL-CIO, the anti-poverty coalition ACORN and other liberal groups which faulted the Republican-led Congress for failing to raise the federal minimum wage since 1997.

The initial hourly minimums proposed in the six measures ranged from $6.15 in Nevada and Montana to $6.85 in Colorado and Ohio.

Each measure indexes the wage to inflation, so that further hikes will come automatically as the cost of living increases.

The National Restaurant Association, which tried to mobilize opposition campaigns, warned that businesses were becoming too vulnerable to populist ballot measures.

“Cramming a complicated economic issue like raising the minimum onto an already cluttered ballot is no way to enact sound economic policy,” said an association vice president, Tom Foulkes.

“Issues that have broad economic impact … should be scrutinized and debated through the legislative process.”

In Missouri, the wage issue surfaced in the crucial U.S. Senate race won by Democrat Claire McCaskill, who supported the wage hike, over Republican incumbent Jim Talent, who took no official position.

“Them boys up in Washington are making big money, and they want people to live off of nothing,” said Samson Frank Sr., 75, of Kansas City.

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