Editorial: Effort to lower minimum wage doesn’t add up
In 2016, voters approved increases to the minimum wage in Arizona. As a result, it has been steadily increasing.
Over the months and years that followed that election, many things changed: state contracts, for instance, had to be re-done; and many businesses raised the minimums, which caused them to bump up others to keep wages fair for those with more experience, according to Courier archives.
One fly in the ointment has been part-time workers, who also received increases as well as some paid time off.
Proposition 206, the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act, raised the minimum wage from $8.05 per hour to what is now $11, and increasing to $12 in 2020.
Some entities in the state – the Goldwater Institute, Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, and some state lawmakers – have put up House Bill 2523, which would allow businesses to pay $7.25 per hour to full-time students younger than 22 who work no more than 20 hours a week.
We have serious problems with this.
First, that is nearly a dollar per hour less than the minimum wage voters deemed inadequate.
Secondly there is that pesky word and population: voters. The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act was approved by 58.3 percent – a nearly 2-1 margin. Changing it like this is not following the will of the voters.
But let’s examine that for a second.
Lawmakers who win elections enjoy their success – “The voters have spoken!”
How then do they forget those same voters when it comes to the propositions? “They must have misunderstood,” they say.
Is that why the Legislature continues to advance hurdle after hurdle that will make it more difficult for citizens to get measures on the ballot? We have not misunderstood; some of those new requirements would add accountability, such as when and how paid petition circulators are allowed.
However, for Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, is attempting to channel the voters’ will like he is a psychic. “Prop 206 was titled and advertised and got signatures based on the fact that it was for ‘healthy families,’ protecting our families, full-time individuals, working full time, earning the minimum wage, raising a family,” he said.
He claims this is being done in the interest of youth, a population with “close to a 12 percent unemployment,” he said for a Capitol Media Services article.
“Why do you not want young people to have a job?” he continued. “Why are you against somebody who’s under 22 years old, who works less than 20 hours a week, who’s going to school full (time)?”
Big assumptions, Rep. Grantham.
Unfortunately, he forgets that three things will kill his bill.
First, the generation of Millennials generally has higher unemployment rates than generations before it. It is a characteristic of the generation – “not wanting to be tied down.”
Secondly, those younger workers are often students, who need money to survive and pay bills. This country already has a challenge getting people to repay student loans; do we want to set the stage to where those students need more of them?
Finally, and most important, many people younger than 22 have families; they often have to work multiple part-time jobs to get by.
This is legislation that would hurt, not help.