Yes: Gradual, moderate raises will help workers without hurting jobsIf passed, Amendment 70 will increase the Colorado minimum wage from the current $8.31 per hour to $12 per hour by 2020. One of the most common concerns is that increasing the minimum wage could cause job loss.
In the media, opinions about this amendment abound, often based on economic models, theory and projections lacking proof or actual evidence, from biased organizations. I would not be working to increase Colorado’s minimum wage if I felt it would negatively affect low-wage workers, so I looked at what has really happened in instances when the minimum wage has been increased. By examining data from academic studies and unbiased, up-to-date research, it is clear that increasing the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 is smart and fair for all of Colorado and will not negatively affect employment.
The most rigorous research to date on increases in the minimum wage finds there is little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers. For example, controlled studies (the gold standard in research methodology) have been conducted for municipalities spanning state lines. When the minimum wage was increased in one state but not the other, there was no affect on employment in the portion of the municipality in the state raising the minimum wage.
Economists at the Center for Economic Policy Research reviewed studies examining the impact of minimum wage increases since 2000 and determined that there is little or no evidence of significant job loss from modest increases in the minimum wage. They argue that this is mostly because “the cost shock of the minimum wage is small relative to most firms’ overall costs and only modest relative to the wages paid to low-wage workers.”
In 2014, economists evaluated the impact of increases in the minimum wage in 13 states and found no evidence of negative employment impacts. They concluded that moderate increases in the minimum wage do not hurt state job growth even among the groups most affected (low wage workers).
Colorado saw significant job growth when the state last increased the minimum wage by 33 percent in 2006.
After reviewing 200 scholarly papers on the topic, researchers at Michigan State University and Dartmouth concluded in 2014: “moderate increases in the minimum wage are a useful means of raising wages in the lower part of the wage distribution that has little or no effect on employment and hours. This is what one seeks in a policy tool, solid benefits with small costs.”
The most rigorous research finds that moderate increases in the minimum wage, which are phased in gradually as is the case for Amendment 70, do not have a negative impact on employment. The increase proposed by Amendment 70 will increase the Colorado minimum wage “moderately,” less than one dollar per year, and “gradually,” over a four-year period. With its passage, 477,000 hard-working Coloradoans will get a raise that will help make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage is an important first step toward thriving individuals, families and communities across Colorado.
Maureen Maliszewski is the Director of La Plata County Thrive! Living Wage Coalition. Reach her at ThriveLaPlata@gmail.com.
No: Do not put poorly conceived policy in the state ConstitutionThe way Amendment 70 is written will hurt small businesses, rural communities and independent restaurants. While I support raising the minimum wage, due to these serious flaws I urge you to vote “no” on Amendment 70 because poorly-written policy does not belong in our state’s constitution.
No matter what you think about raising the minimum wage, a flawed measure should not be shoved into our state’s foundational document.
What’s wrong with the way Amendment 70 is written? For starters, Amendment 70 will force the same minimum wage hike on rural communities as it does downtown Denver, and that is neither fair nor feasible.
Across many rural communities in Colorado and here in Grand Junction, the economy is not doing as well as it is in the Denver metro area. While construction cranes may be a common sight in Denver, they are not in many of Colorado’s far-flung communities, where the economy is still struggling.
In those areas, businesses are fighting to stay open and keep the staff they have. If you force the same 44 percent minimum wage hike on small businesses in rural communities as you do big corporations in wealthier areas, it won’t be the big corporations who suffer.
I spend my day advocating on behalf of the many small and family owned businesses in the Grand Junction area. I know their stories well. Believe me when I tell you they would all love the ability to raise wages for all of their workers. It’s not that they won’t, it’s that too many simply can’t afford it.
That’s why Amendment 70 is not the right solution. Colorado is a diverse state with huge regional disparities in the cost of living. In fact, according to Pew Research, Colorado has the 12th highest disparity in the nation when it comes to the differences in cost of living across the state.
Does anyone really believe a small family owned Mexican restaurant in Alamosa should be treated the same as a big corporation based in downtown Denver?
If you don’t, then Amendment 70 is the wrong solution.
Many other states have been raising their minimum wages recently, but the difference is they did not use a one-size-fits-all approach.
In Oregon and New York, there are multiple minimum wage zones — to reflect the fact that the cost of living is lower in rural communities. Both states also allow smaller businesses more time than big corporations to reach the higher wage.
In New York and California, if there is a recession, both states have the ability to “pause” their minimum wage hikes to help protect jobs.
With Amendment 70, Colorado has none of those options. It would be in the Constitution.
What this all adds up to is a policy with the right goal, but the wrong approach. I urge voters to consider the danger of locking policies into our state Constitution.
While many of us agree that wages should increase, Amendment 70 goes about it the wrong way. Vote “no” on Amendment 70.
Diane Schwenke is the president of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.