Business interests in Colorado were handed both victory and defeat in the election earlier this week.
Voters agreed to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, an additional expense that will be borne largely by small business owners. But the proposal for universal, single-payer health care was decisively voted down.
Business interests around the state — including the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce — opposed Amendment 69, which would have amended the state constitution to create a state-run agency that would administer health care costs.
But small businesses — particularly those in the retail sector — will have to find a way to balance both the new minimum wage with federal overtime regulations. Low-wage workers will receive a 90-cent pay hike in January, and will continue to receive pay increases until the minimum wage reaches $12 an hour.
Some small business owners believe the change will adversely affect their companies, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the RBA took a stance against the wage hike. The proposal, they said, is likely to harm both low-wage workers and business owners.
We have to find local solutions.
But not all economists agree. Some say that raising the minimum wage isn’t only the ethical thing to do — it’s the smart thing for the economy. Government assistance for people living below the poverty level — in the form of disability payments, welfare checks, food stamps and Aid for Dependent Children — costs more than the nation pays for defense and education combined. It’s already very expensive, they say, and raising the minimum wage can only offset some of those federal budgetary costs, while also decreasing the deficit.
Economists acknowledge that there are small businesses who could be harmed by the wage hike. But, as one said, “Show me an economic decision without costs to someone.”
Other good news for business interests — the state will hold a presidential primary in March 2020 and unaffiliated voters will be able to take part in it. The Regional Business Alliance came out in favor of the idea, and Mayor John Suthers has said the change could bring more election dollars to the state, boosting economic vitality throughout Colorado.
And now that the election is over, it’s time for the real work to begin. Let’s hope that those new voters and candidates decide to continue being involved. As businesses work to find ways to address new wage rules and laws, it’s vital to keep people employed and businesses afloat.
As technology makes some positions obsolete, we must invest in job training to address the skills gap in high-tech information technology and manufacturing positions. As Millennials enter the workforce, the business community must respond to retain younger workers.
And as the cold weather sets in, business owners must respond with compassion and care for the city’s homeless — helping them find stability. We have to address flooding and stormwater infrastructure; we need a larger police force as the city continues to grow. These are local issues, and we have to find local solutions.
It’s time to fight for the city we want to become — and work together to get there.