Originally Published: May 4, 2017 6 a.m.
Arizona voters passed a minimum wage increase in the November 2016 election despite claims from opponents that it would be a huge job killer.
There has definitely been an impact, just not quite what opponents promised.
Local school districts have had to increase some of their fees to help pay for the increase. For example in the Chino Valley Unified School District, they raised the price of tickets to sporting events (from $5 to $7), increased tuition for preschool students ($160 to $165) and suspended the longevity bonus to teachers.
Local municipalities have also had to deal with the increase. Prescott Valley recently raised the prices at Mountain Valley Splash, the town’s aquatics center (it will be $3 for youth and $4 for adults to swim this summer, up $1 from 2016).
What hasn’t happened is the doomsday scenario the Arizona Chamber of Commerce made its centerpiece in opposing the hike, the loss of jobs, specifically in the leisure and hospitality industry.
The Office of Economic Opportunity reported last month that the number of people working in bars and restaurants in March increased at six times the rate for the overall economy. That’s 7,800 people hired since February.
It doesn’t take an economist to figure out that many more people being hired at an increased wage is great news for the overall economy of the state of Arizona. That’s money they’re spending at other businesses.
Prices are up, no doubt about it. We’re all paying a little more so that workers on the low end of the pay scale have a few more dollars to feed and clothe their families. And to spend at the businesses the rest of us work at.
And this experiment is not over. The increase the voters approved continues through 2020, raising it in stages until the minimum wage reaches $12 an hour.
Garrick Taylor, spokesperson for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce said it’s too soon to say the wage hike was a success.
“We would like to be proven wrong,’’ he told reporter Howard Fischer. “We are in the early stages of this dramatic mandated wage increase. Let’s hope these numbers remain strong, but we have our concerns.’’
For now, with the increase in jobs in these two segments of the economy, it’s beginning to look like the voters were wise and made the right decision. However, we must keep in mind this is only a small part of the overall economy and we’ll need to continue to keep a close eye on the impact for the entire state.