Guest opinion: Minimum wage proposal: modest, smart and fair
As a small-business owner here in Glenwood, I understand that some of my peers are worried about the minimum wage proposal, especially with all the misinformation out there. But the more I look into it, the more certain I am: The plan to gradually increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 is a modest, smart and fair solution that will help both hard-working families and local small businesses in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Some corporate lobbying groups are acting like Chicken Little, panicked that the sky is falling, that a fair wage will collapse our economy and kill jobs. That panic is propaganda.
What convinced me to support Amendment 70 was that we don’t need to wonder about what will happen if this passes — we know: a fairer, higher wage works for us here in Glenwood. And we have other proof; we have history. A modest increase in the minimum wage is smart for Colorado.
The big-business community had the exact same concerns in 2006 when a measure instituting a much steeper increase passed. Did the sky fall? No. In fact, Colorado added 73,000-plus jobs in 2007-2008, including more than 6,000 in rural communities. Across the country, in towns and states that have raised wages, employment has not suffered and economic growth has not slowed.
Amendment 70 will boost Colorado women and families in achieving economic self-sufficiency without harm to our thriving business environment and economy.
Just last week, a University of Denver report added to the evidence that Amendment 70 will in fact boost the state’s economy, without costing jobs. Researchers predict that spending by people who get minimum wage increases and their families will augment Colorado’s gross domestic product by $400 million. They estimated that incomes will increase for 20 percent of households, including 200,000 households with children. For a family with two children, a minimum wage boost to $12/hour could cover the cost of six to eight months of food; seven to nine months of transportation expenses; four to seven months of rent; or a semester to a full year at a community college.
Study after study, and the experience of other places, demonstrates that local businesses benefit when workers have money in their pockets because they spend it on Main Street. And on Grand Avenue. That means more profit and more hiring.
Additionally, more than 150 Colorado businesses support this measure because a fair wage decreases employee turnover, increases productivity and grows the local economy.
The opponents don’t want you to think about heads of households, parents with kids; they want you to think of teenagers working in fast-food, part-time, for spending money. But the average age of a low wage earner is 35 — and almost nine out of 10 are older than 20. These adults, working full-time at minimum wage, take home less than $300/week, not nearly enough to afford food, rent and other basic needs, especially here in the valley. On average, these workers need 80 hours per week to afford a basic two-bedroom apartment.
Besides, raising the wage is fair. I believe that working families in the valley should be able to put food on the table and provide a home for their children. But many of our neighbors in skilled jobs including nursing assistants, preschool teachers, EMTs and caregivers for seniors or the disabled, make less than $12 an hour. Even working full-time, that’s not enough to cover their housing. About 130,000 are parents with full-time jobs — living in poverty with their children.
Despite these facts, the opponents just launched $2.3 million worth of TV ads using false data from a debunked study. After they fact-checked the opponents’ ads, Colorado economists and the Colorado Fiscal Institute found that the report cherry-picked negative studies using outdated, disregarded methodology.
One study they mentioned even predicted income loss, despite no other study ever showing that before. Their strategy is to confuse voters with stats and numbers and lies. But for the last 20 years, the economic research is very clear that a modest raise to the minimum wage has either a positive or no effect on jobs.
Truth is, this is a great proposal for Colorado that creates a strong economy so real people can earn enough to take care of themselves and their families. So vote yes on Amendment 70 to raise the wage modestly and gradually to $12 an hour by 2020 – it’s smart for Glenwood’s economy and fair for working families.
Laurie Raymond of Glenwood Springs is the owner of High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters. She writes a monthly pet column for the Post Independent, but submitted this guest opinion apart from that arrangement.
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