• Feb 18, 2016, 6:15pm MST

    Ed Sealover Reporter Denver Business Journal

    Business PulseBusiness leaders shot down several attempts at the Legislature last year to raise Colorado’s minimum wage. This year, they may have to spend more to defeat a new attempt at the ballot.

    Colorado Families for a Fair Wage — a newly formed group that organizers say is composed of low-wage workers and small-business owners — filed two proposed constitutional amendments with the Secretary of State’s office on Thursday that would raise workers’ minimum hourly pay to $12 over the next four years.

    CO Minimum Wage picture

    More than 100 people rallied on March 23, 2015 at the Colorado Capitol for two bills that… more

    Ed Sealover | Denver Business Journal

    Both would bump the state minimum wage, now $8.31 an hour, to $9.30 at the start of 2017 and then increase it 90 cents per year. The difference between them is that one measure would increase the wage by inflation thereafter and the other would raise it by cost-of-living increases.

    Raising the minimum wage is a nationwide populist movement that has caught the attention of Democratic presidential candidates as well. Legislative Democrats in Colorado ran two bills to raise the statewide wage to $12.50 in 2015, but Republicans killed both.

    The new measures seek a lower floor, as backers say $12 per hour would return state residents to an inflation-adjusted wage close to the minimum of the late 1960s.

    Backers would need to get nearly 100,000 valid signatures in order to get either measure on the statewide ballot if a title-setting board approves of its language.

    “Raising the minimum wage makes good business sense,” said Richard Correa, owner of the Correa Insurance Agency, with offices in Aurora, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. “Workers will spend their needed minimum wage increases at the grocery, hardware store, auto repair and other businesses. And businesses will benefit from lower turnover, greater productivity and better customer service as employees are more invested in businesses that are more invested in them.”

    Business leaders, however, say that any mandated hike in the wage will likely force companies to go with fewer workers, especially because many lower-wage jobs are in industries like food-service where profit margins already are extremely low.

    “Raising the minimum wage to the level proposed in this ballot initiative has consequences that are being experienced by other states that adopted similar costly mandates,” said Loren Furman, senior vice president of state and federal relations for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry. “Huge hikes in the minimum wage are proven to increase costs for consumers and result in staff and salary reductions for employees. This initiative that would have devastating effects on many industries as well as Colorado’s workforce.”

    Members of the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday killed a bill that would have allowed local governments to raise the minimum wage within their borders above the state minimum wage.

    Sponsoring Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, said that negative consequences of wage hikes are “greatly exaggerated,” while Republicans on the committee replied that they disagreed with his assessment.

    The 2016 ballot is shaping up to be a particularly lengthy one. In addition to presidential and U.S. Senate races, Coloradans could vote on initiatives ranging from the creation of a universal health care plan to the expansion of full-strength beer sales to a sales-tax hike for transportation improvements.

    Ed Sealover covers government, health care, tourism, airlines, hospitality and restaurants for the Denver Business Journal and writes for the “Capitol Business” blog. Phone: 303-803-9229.



    Posted by Dana West @ 10:12 am for Ballot Issue, Colorado politics, Issues, Jobs |

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