DENVER – Proponents of an effort to gradually raise the minimum wage in Colorado submitted more than double the amount of signatures necessary to make the November ballot.
Colorado Families for a Fair Wage submitted around 200,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday. It takes 98,492 valid signatures to make the ballot.
“We had thousands of conversations with voters all across the state during this effort, and it’s clear that Colorado voters overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage,” said Patty Kupfer, campaign manager for the initiative.
The effort would gradually raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020.
Proponents took the question to voters after the Legislature failed to act.
The proposal aims at addressing the current wage of $8.31, which hasn’t kept pace with the state’s increasing cost of living, according to proponents.
A full-time minimum wage worker makes about $17,000 per year, or about $300 per week after taxes.
Supporters of the effort point to research – conducted by the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research – that shows that raising the minimum wage has “little or no employment response.” Raising the wage could actually boost job retention, as it would reduce employee turnover and increase productivity, according to the study.
Proponents also say the proposal would not lead to consumer price increases.
Opponents, however, point to dueling research, which underscores that raising the wage would reduce potential employment in Colorado by 3.3 percent, eliminating over 90,000 jobs, and decrease wage and salary incomes by as much as $3.9 billion per year.
Common Sense Policy Roundtable conducted the research, which describes itself as a “free-enterprise think tank” that is aligned with business interests.
“This is going to do more harm than good,” said Tyler Sandberg, spokesman for Keep Colorado Working, the opposition campaign. “They’re trying to raise the wage for low-wage workers, but they’re going to end up having them laid off instead.
“While this may be affordable for wealthy corporations in Denver, it’s not affordable for small businesses, and it’s not affordable for rural Colorado.”
But some small business owners are already on board with the proposal.
“We have a choice today about what state we want Colorado to become,” said Yoav Lurie, chief executive and founder of Simple Energy, a Boulder-based company that works on energy conservation.
“We have a fantastic workforce,” Lurie continued. “Nobody who works full time in Colorado should live in poverty.”