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Local Minimum-Wage Bill Faces Uphill Battle in CO Senate

Raising the minimum wage can lead to increased worker productivity and decreased turnover costs for businesses. (Tirachard Kumtanom/Pexels)
Raising the minimum wage can lead to increased worker productivity and decreased turnover costs for businesses. (Tirachard Kumtanom/Pexels)
May 2, 2018

DENVER - Even with this year's increase in Colorado's minimum wage, now at $10.20 an hour, workers in ski-resort counties and cities such as Boulder continue to struggle. On Thursday, a state Senate committee is scheduled to hear a bill that would allow municipalities to set their own minimum wages.

Jack Strauss, chair of applied economics at the University of Denver's business school, said western states including Arizona, California, New Mexico and Washington have allowed for a variety of wage floors because in terms of pay, one size doesn't fit all.

"Because the cost of living differs throughout a state," he said, "it makes sense to have a higher minimum wage in regions or cities that are more expensive."

In 1999, Colorado passed a law prohibiting local governments from setting their own minimum wage, and more than a dozen states now have similar pre-emptive laws. Opponents have said allowing a patchwork of wage floors across the state would lead to job loss, and businesses would have to pass higher costs on to consumers.

However, analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that businesses end up saving money after minimum-wage hikes, and that their training costs go down because workers stay on the job longer and take on more responsibility.

When companies don't pay a living wage, Strauss said, taxpayers end up footing the bill as workers turn to public assistance to get by.

"Yes, we may be paying two pennies more for a McDonald's meal," he said, "but at the same time, we can be satisfied that workers in the store are not going to be living off of food stamps."

House Bill 1380 passed the Democrat-controlled House last week along strict party lines. The bill was assigned to the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, popularly known as the body's "kill committee." The text of the bill is online at

The CEPR study is at

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO