DENVER (AP) — Colorado voters would have the choice to increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.23 an hour to $12.50 with legislation introduced Thursday by a Democratic lawmaker.
The proposal needs support from two-thirds of the Colorado Legislature to put it on the ballot — a heavy lift given the makeup of the statehouse with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans the Senate.
Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, acknowledged his proposal doesn’t have the votes to pass, but he said he hopes the debate will help jumpstart an effort outside the state Capitol for advocates to try to make the 2016 ballot.
“I think it just continues the conversation about the fact that costs, every cost across Colorado is going up,” he said. “Transportation, food costs, housing costs are skyrocketing, and wages aren’t keeping up.”
Moreno’s proposal would increase the minimum wage by a dollar each year until reaching $12.50 by 2020. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25, but 29 states and the District of Columbia have set higher minimum wages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Republican House Leader Brian DelGrosso said Moreno’s idea could increase costs to consumers and put Colorado businesses at a competitive disadvantage with other states with lower minimum wages. “If we raise the bottom wage you’re going to have a ripple effect, which is going to cause all of those costs to go even higher,” said DelGrosso, a Loveland lawmaker who owns Domino’s pizza franchises.
DelGrosso also noted that Colorado already mandates yearly increases to the minimum wage to adjust for inflation.
Colorado supporters of a minimum-wage increase plan to rally Monday outside the state Capitol.
Among those planning to be there is Andrew Olson, 25, who has worked at a McDonald’s restaurant in Aurora for five years. He currently earns $8.60 per hour. Olson said he receives food stamps and would like to be self-sufficient.
“I’m very attracted to the idea of being able to live independently,” he said.
Another bill introduced by Moreno on Thursday would let cities and towns in Colorado set their own minimum wage. While it could pass the House, it’s unlikely to succeed in the Republican-led Senate.