Senate Committee Votes To Send Arizona Minimum Wage Law Back Voters

By  Holliday Moore, Claire Caulfield, Howard Fischer
Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 10:55am
Updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 12:21pm

An Arizona House committee backed a plan to send the 2016 voter-approved minimum wage hike and paid sick leave initiative back to the ballot.

In 2016. a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 passed by a margin of 58-42.

Six months after the latest increase to $10.50 and required sick leave went into effect, rural business owners shared stories of hardship they believe is related to the wage hike.

 "People will only pay so much for trail mix and peanuts,'' said Donna George of Yuma, who said she is worried about passing on new costs to customers.

And Olivia Long, a 2017 Payson High School graduate, said when the local family owned coffee shop where she once worked raised its prices, customers went to Starbucks.

But, Tomas Robles with Living United for Change Arizona, the organization originally behind Prop 206, tried to counter their complaints with statewide figures.

"Arizona's unemployment since the passage of Prop. 206 has dropped to 4.5 percent," said Robles. That the the lowest in 10 years, he said.

Looking at hospitality and leisure numbers he reported it grew by 2.8 percent, outpacing national statistics.

"We've added jobs ... more people participate in the economy right now," Robles said.

But, the sponsor of SCR1016, Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said the issue is far more personal for small business owners.

"Your business is your private property," she argued. In fact, Allen does not believe the government should determine any minimum wage.

“Individually you can’t walk into a business and start telling that business owner how they have to run their business,” Allen said. “You don’t know the profit margins or the details of that businesses.”

Allen decided the measure should freeze the minimum wage instead of eliminating it completely or reverting it back to $8.05.

“It would cause, I think, more havoc to say, ‘Oh, we’re going back to the $8,’” she said. “It wouldn’t make sense and I don’t think it would get passed.”

Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said having voters set a higher minimum wage is a moral issue.

"I believe I have a moral responsibility to be generous with my own money,'' he said."But I believe it's completely immoral to be generous with other people's money.''

David Wells, research director of the Grand Canyon Institute, acknowledged that taking wages from $8.05 an hour to $10.50 and then to $12 will result in the loss of about 13,000 jobs. But, his research shows about 800,000 Arizonans will benefit with more money in their paychecks.

In addition to freezing the minimum wage, the ballot measure also drops the requirement to offer three days paid sick leave for full-time employees.

“All the large corporations pay benefit packages,” Allen said. “Nobody is forced to work anywhere, if they do not like the conditions where they’re working they can move on.”

The committee voted to send the measure to the full Senate. If it passes both chambers, voters would decide whether to freeze the minimum wage at the current $10.50 and drop the required three days paid sick leave for full-time employees.

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