APR’s state ballot series: minimum wage

Oct 12, 2016

Opponents of Amendment 70 which would raise the minimum wage in Colorado say it will hurt small businesses, but since valley wages are already that high, owners say its a moot point.
Credit courtesy photo

Amendment 70: minimum wage increase.  A “yes” vote will raise the minimum wage in Colorado, a “no” vote keeps the status quo.

 

If Amendment 70 passes the minimum wage in Colorado will go from the current $8.31 cents an hour to $9.30 in January. It will then step up 90 cents annually until it reaches $12 by the year 2020. With the high cost of living and doing business in the Roaring Fork Valley, many employers already pay their employees $12 dollars an hour.

 

“I don't know anyone that actually can pay minimum wage (in the valley),” said Tracy Bennett,  owner of Midland Shoe in downtown Basalt. She employs five hourly workers.

“I couldn’t attract the people I want, the caliber, if I paid minimum wage. I have to go way above and beyond that.”  

 

From Bennet’s small shop to the valley’s largest employer, administrators say Amendment 70 is a moot point here. Aspen Skiing Company spokesman Jeff Hanle said the company has always aimed to offer the highest wages in the industry.

“We’re already at that point or beyond so it,” said Hanle of the $12 per hour rate. “ So it wouldn’t affect us greatly. But we do support it.”

 

Opponents of the measure say it will hurt workers in the end, because businesses will cut back employee hours in order to save money.

Community leaders don’t seem to think that a statewide wage raise would mean a loss of workers in the valley.

“People usually choose this area either because they grew here or because they were drawn to it, I don’t think this particular issue is going to change that,” said Robin Waters, president of the Basalt Chamber of commerce.

 

Currently, the Consumer Price Index is used to calculate increases to the state minimum wage. That resulted in an 8 cent increase last year. If Amendment 70 is adopted, wages would jump more than ten times that amount.

Note: This fall, Aspen Public Radio is exploring how statewide measures play out in the Roaring Fork Valley. Tune in each week to hear an analysis of each initiative. For a complete look at election coverage, click here.