A Livable Minimum Wage

(March 23) – Two bills in support of increasing the minimum wage in Colorado were approved today by the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.

Under Colorado’s current minimum wage of $8.23 an hour, an employee working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year makes only $17,118 a year. That’s nearly $3,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of three. In other words, a single parent with two children cannot survive on minimum wage in most communities in Colorado.

Reps. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, are sponsoring both minimum wage measures. HB15-1300 would allow county and municipal governments to set a minimum wage that’s higher than the state minimum. HCR15-1001 would submit a statewide minimum wage increase to the voters on the November 2016 ballot, increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 in 2017, $10.50 in 2018, $11.50 in 2019 and $12.50 in 2020.

“When did we get to the point where we think it’s OK that people working full time still live in poverty?” Rep. Moreno told a West Steps rally before the hearing.

Perhaps we don’t think it’s OK after all. A recent survey found that two thirds of Coloradans would vote to raise the minimum wage.

In other states, including neighboring Nebraska, a minimum wage increase has spurred the economy, refuting doom and gloom warnings from business groups. Instead, those states saw job creation increase and taxpayer-supported social services costs decline.

“It’s time for Colorado to get a raise,” Rep. Melton told the West Steps rally. “It’s not fair for someone who works 40 hours a week to barely put food on the table or barely be able to keep a roof over their heads.”

After today’s 6-5 party-line votes, both measures head to the House floor.

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