Amendment 70: A Minimum Wage Reflective of Rising Living Costs
Given the continuous rising cost of living in Colorado, for the second time in a decade the question of raising the minimum wage is back on the state ballot. Amendment 70 seeks to bridge the gap of social inequity by providing struggling families with an opportunity at a decent and respectable life.
The minimum wage in Colorado currently stands at $8.23 an hour and adjusts annually based on the underlying consumer inflation rate. If Amendment 70 passes, it would lift the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020; equivalent to a 44 percent growth. In addition, the wage for tipped workers, pegged at $5.29, would increase by 70 percent.
Today, there are approximately 500 000 Coloradans – that’s 1 in 5 – who live on $12 an hour or less.
Lizeth Chacon, co-chair of Colorado Families for a Fair Wage, knew the issue would draw in voters and fought hard for it to be put on the ballot.
“We know that Coloradans are with us, and they realize it is hard to make a living in our community on the current minimum wage,” she said.
Proponents of the initiative cite it would reduce dependence on public assistance, something that many need nowadays just to make ends meet. Statistics also show low income workers are more likely to spend the extra income they earn, providing the economy with another boost.
In an address to the State of the Union several years ago, President Obama made the following point:
“Raising the minimum wage will benefit millions of people and it will help businesses, too. Raising the wage will put more money in people’s pockets, which they will pump back into the economy by spending it on goods and services in their communities.”
A recent study by the University of Denver revealed Amendment 70 would pump $400 million into the Colorado economy, boosting income for 20% of households in the state.
Reliable data also indicates 86% of those that stand to benefit are older than 20, and 45% will have had some college education; debunking the myth that it is only teenagers who are affected by the minimum wage issue.
However, opposition to the initiative is equally formidable, led by the campaign Keep Colorado Working. Although sluggish at first, the organization has garnered the support of several businesses, including the powerful Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.
Among the strongest opponents in the private sector to Amendment 70 are restaurants and small business owners. Both warn that a 44 percent raise in the minimum wage (and a 70 percent rise in tipped wages) could lead to reduced jobs and increased cost for the consumer.
“While large corporations in Denver can probably absorb the increased costs, it will be devastating to small and family-owned business,” said Tyler Sanderberg, spokesman for Keep Colorado Working.
The campaign references a study conducted by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable which asserts that Colorado could lose up to 90,000 jobs if the minimum wage is raised to $12 an hour.
Another concern the campaign highlights is the already high teen unemployment rate. A hike in the minimum wage, according to the argument, would result in high school graduates taking on more debt to attend college because there will be less jobs available to them.
However, regarded as an issue of social fairness, recent polls indicate 58 percent of Coloradans who are struggling to make ends meet are in favor of Amendment 70.
Colorado has witnessed an unprecedented influx of people, from all regions of the country. And while the state’s thriving economy welcomes this additional work force, the changing demographics have had an undeniable impact on the cost of living.
Lower income households are struggling to keep within means resulting in increased levels of stress, tension and existential fears.
To quell these uncertainties, it is right for Coloradans to vote in favor of Amendment 70.