One more reason to question the advisability of raising Arizona’s minimum wage

tracy%20doren%20mugshot%2011151As often as I can, I try to attend local Chamber of Commerce programs, not only to see old friends and meet new ones but, as frequently happens, to broaden my awareness of current, topical issues.

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The Sept. 9 meeting of the Chandler Chamber was, on all counts, no exception.

The high point, it turned out, was a presentation on Prop 206, the November ballot issue that proposes to substantially hike Arizona’s minimum wage by 2020. In case you haven’t already done the math, that’s just four years from now.

I don’t need to remind you that the audience for this discussion was, of course, business people, the very folks who will have to reach into their pockets should Prop 206 find favor on this year’s ballot.

In addition to the business folks who were on hand for what turned out to be quite a lively discussion were the panelists, one pro, Lauren Kuby, a Tempe councilmember, and one con, Garrick Taylor, who represents the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

(FYI, my first note-to-self after Taylor began circling the wagons in favor of his viewpoint, was to never get into any kind of debate with him, even on something I suppose would be as non-controversial as what cereal I serve my kids for breakfast.)

In case you haven’t yet delved into the details of what this proposition would do, here’s a simple explanation:

Starting next year, the minimum hourly wage that business owners will be required to pay their employees is $10, up $1.95 from today’s minimum. The rate then escalates to $10.50 in 2018; $11 in 2019; and $12 in 2020. The proposition also guarantees earned paid sick time for employees in companies no matter how big the staff.

Now, at first glance, all of these provisions seem like humane, business-savvy moves into the 21st century. How they seem to me, and to you, however, is a personal matter and one that I don’t want to debate in this space.

What interested me from the Chamber’s panelists was the wide difference in style and content of their approach to advocating for or against the measure, which also includes earned sick days.

In one exchange, for example, Kuby noted that even Syria has such a benefit. The unlikely juxtaposition of two wholly dissimilar economies drew murmurs of disagreement.  The other panelist (Taylor) came armed with an arsenal of facts, spouting them with such matter-of-fact confidence that they hit home with what understandably was a receptive audience.

All of which caused me to consider how Prop 206’s passage might affect those in small business, like us, and as a mom with a (hopefully) soon-to-be-employed daughter.

This is wherein lies the rub.

If Brooklynn, now 15, has to be paid the going rate in whatever year she joins the workforce, I worry that there are many companies where today she could be hired, will no longer be able to do so at the higher rate.

Being in the business world, we realize that money is a finite resource—that despite our appreciation for people’s need to earn a living wage, we know that there would be limited options if a higher minimum wage is adopted: raise prices or hire fewer people.

These are the kinds of thoughts that occur to you when you’re at a Chamber meeting. Maybe I’ll see you at the next one.

 

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