Initiative to increase Colorado minimum wage faces battle

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) -- A ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage is one step closer to being on the November ballot in Colorado.

A campaign by Colorado Families for a Fair Wage to increase Colorado’s minimum wage turned in the 200,000 petition signatures needed to qualify for a ballot issue.

The Secretary of State's Office will verify the signatures.

Currently, minimum wage in Colorado is $8.31. The initiative would increase wages over a 4-year span to $12, by 2020.

“I have to watch every nickel and dime,” said Jessica Harrison who makes minimum wage. “I am living paycheck to paycheck every week.”

A vote to raise the minimum wage seems likely to appear on the November ballot after the group filed Initiative 101 on Monday.

“We have people working full time living in poverty and we want to change that,” said Patty Kupfer, the campaign manager of Colorado Families for a Fair Wage. “Wages just have not kept up with the cost of living.”

Opponents to the initiative said it would hurt small businesses on the Western Slope.

John Brackney with Keep Colorado Working was in Grand Junction on Monday, speaking with local businesses on the matter.

“Minimum wage employees have had a 61 percent increase in the last decade and if this passes, it will be another 44 percent increase, which is damaging to small businesses,” Brackney said.

Brackney said an increase in wages would increase costs for business owners.

“An employer will choose to have fewer employees, not have as good of customer service or increase their cost to the consumer,” he said.

Supporters of the initiative said the wage hike would take place over time.

“It’s phased over four years with the intention that businesses will have time to factor that in,” Kupfer said.

Those in opposition recognize that it may be beneficial to the Front Range, however the idea hurts the Western Slope.

“By having these mandates, these one size fits all coming out of Denver, and saying here in the rural were going to make sure you pay this much, is just really unfair,” Brackney said.

But with more than enough signatures on the petition, the initiative is moving closer to being a ballot issue.

“We think it’s smart and fair,” Kupfer said. “We anticipate it will grow the economy in small businesses and see our communities thrive."



 
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