DENVER – Colorado voters next month will be asked to gradually raise the minimum wage.
The Amendment 70 question reads, “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution increasing the minimum wage to $9.30 per hour with annual increases of $0.90 each January 1 until it reaches $12 per hour effective January 2020, and annually adjusting it thereafter for cost-of-living increases?”
The increase would happen in gradual stages:
January 1, 2017: $9.30 per hour.January 1, 2018: $10.20 per hour.January 1, 2019: $11.10 per hour.January 1, 2020: $12 per hour.The current minimum wage is $8.31 per hour; the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
The last time voters approved a minimum wage hike in Colorado was in 2006, when the electorate adopted a wage of $6.85. It was adjusted to $8.31 per hour due to inflation.
The minimum wage for tipped workers is currently $5.29 per hour plus tips. Amendment 70 would increase the tipped minimum wage to $8.98 per hour plus tips by 2020.
A “Yes” vote for the measure would set the gradual increase into motion.
A “No” vote would leave the current wage, which would continue to be adjusted for inflation.
Proponents say the current minimum wage is too low to provide a basic standard of living for some workers, which usually includes retail sales workers, food-service workers, child care workers, janitors and home health aides.
Full-time workers making the minimum wage in Colorado earn about $17,285 per year, or about $300 per week after taxes. Many rely on public assistance.
The minimum wage has increased only 21 percent since 2007.
Supporters also say that businesses would benefit, as higher wages would translate to improved productivity and the additional money would go back into the economy.
The proposal last month earned the high-profile support of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who initially expressed concerns with the measure, but ultimately decided to back it.
Opponents, led by restaurants and other business interests, say increasing the wage would result in layoffs, reduced hours and fewer benefits.
Employers add that they might not be able to hire or reduce hiring, which would leave prospective employees searching longer for a job.
Business owners say they would have to pass increased costs on to consumers.
Opponents argue that small businesses would be hurt the most, especially in rural parts of the state, where economic recovery has been slower.