According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 states have enacted laws prohibiting local units of government from adopting minimum wage laws for their jurisdictions. Colorado was one of the first states to pass legislation preempting local minimum wage hikes in 1999. Despite the widespread prohibitions, 19 cities and counties nationwide have implemented minimum wages higher than the state or federal minimums, and at least five more are considering doing so.
It is critical that Colorado’s localities have the ability to follow suit. While it appears that Colorado’s economy is recovering from the recession, more families are struggling to make ends meet because wages have failed to keep pace with productivity and inflation. In fact, while Colorado’s $8.23/hour minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, as a full-time income it totals only $17,077—well below the federal poverty level of $19,790 for a family of three. Colorado is a very diverse state, with highly variable costs of living. For example, the cost of living for a parent and two children in Pitkin County ($31.54/hour; $66,607/year) is well over twice that in Kit Carson County ($14.25/hour; $30,089/year). If the preemption were repealed, Colorado’s cities and counties would have the power to adjust for these wide differences and better provide for their residents.