(March 31) – The House gave final approval this morning to a bill giving local governments the option to increase the minimum wage and bring more Coloradans into the middle class.

HB15-1300, sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, passed the House on a 34-30 vote and is headed to the Senate. The bill would allow county and municipal governments to choose a minimum wage that’s higher than the state minimum, which is currently $8.23 an hour.

At Colorado’s current minimum wage, an employee who works 40 hours a week and never takes time off will make only $17,118 a year. That’s nearly $3,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of three.

The current minimum wage “is not a living wage,” Rep. Moreno told the House this morning. “It’s a starvation wage.”

“Programs like Medicaid, food, energy and housing assistance were always meant to be a safety net, there for temporary assistance when people fall on hard times,” he continued. “That’s not the case today. These programs have become taxpayer-funded subsidies for employers who don’t pay their workers enough to live on. It’s wrong.”

HCR15-1001, also sponsored by Reps. Moreno and Melton, would have submitted a statewide minimum wage increase to the voters on the November 2016 ballot.

A recent survey found that two thirds of Coloradans would vote to raise the minimum wage. “Let’s allow the people to have a voice,” Rep. Melton told the House.

But the proposal, phasing in a minimum wage increase to $12.50 in 2020, won a 33-31 majority, short of the two-thirds majority required for ballot initiatives launched by the legislature.

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