BARHA Question 7: Minimum Wage - Boulder Area Rental Housing Association

BARHA Question 7:  This past legislative session, a bill was passed allowing local governments to set their own minimum wage.   Do support an increase in minimum wage in Boulder? If so, how would an increase in wage effect small businesses here?

Aaron Brockett:  I do support an increase in the minimum wage in Boulder because of the high cost of living here. People currently making the minimum wage struggle mightily to get by in our community and would be more able to afford housing and other necessities with higher wages. The higher wages may be a challenge for some small businesses, but I think most Boulder consumers would be willing to tolerate small prices increases to account for the increased costs to the business.

Mark McIntyre: This is an example of my statements above put into action. Yes, I would support an increase in the minimum wage. The extreme wealth inequalities we are experiencing as a country are corrosive to the American sense of fairness and equality of opportunity. Our national tax policies reward wealth more than work. Our state income tax is flat and inherently regressive and state law prohibits cities from having an income tax. Boulder is primarily funded by sales tax, another regressive tax. There is little we can do about these tax policies here but I use them as examples of how we continue to reward the wealthy and in some regards punish the working poor and middle class.

Based on state law, we can now take steps to remedy these problems with changes to minimum wage. Like any policy, the goal is to tune it to provide broad based benefits and minimize the negative effects. So I can’t give you a specific number or timeline, but in principle, Boulder is wealthy enough to support a higher minimum wage. I would also predict that overall small business health would increase due to more workers having more money to pay rent, buy food or meals out, afford better health insurance etc…

Rachel Friend:  State minimum wage is currently $11.10/hour, and there is talk of increasing Boulder’s minimum wage to  $15.00/hour – potentially a jump of approximately $4 / hour. I support an increase in minimum wage in Boulder, with the caveat that we need to invite experts to the table to help us avoid pitfalls. Small businesses are an example of businesses that could inadvertently be harmed if we fail to implement this concept logically. Another example is industries that have set reimbursement rates, where they cannot simply pass on higher costs to consumers. An easy example of this comes from one of my old jobs — working for a non-profit that provided services and supports to individuals with disabilities.   We were a lean, values-driven non-profit, and we worked tirelessly to ensure that our    direct care staff received the best pay possible.   But we were 100% constrained by, and tethered to, reimbursement  rates that were set and paid by the state.   We advocated like crazy for reimbursement rates that could boost staff   wages. But we could not wave a wand and pay our staff more; we required state rate adjustments that would     reimburse us at a higher rate to be able to pass those higher wages on to staff. If Boulder requires a higher minimum wage, yet reimbursement wages from the state remains unchanged — the math doesn’t work out. So as we implement higher minimum wages locally, we need to ensure our critical services can stay afloat in light of all ripple effects.

Bob Yates:  The Boulder City Council has not taken this up. Like rent control, raising minimum wage may have unintended consequences, not only for local businesses, but also for the employees themselves, including reduction in hours and the “cliff effect” of losing social service benefits that may be more valuable than the increased wages. The community will want to carefully consider these consequences if it ever takes up the question.

Junie Joseph:  I think Boulder should set a higher minimum wage, reflecting the higher cost of living here, but also realizing that this could negatively affect small businesses. Small businesses who are paying high rent will have a hard time keeping their doors open. It will be tough because it will be hard for them to make a small margin of profit between paying the new living wage and the amount of rent. We also need to work on workforce education to support small businesses and incentivize co-working/sharing spaces. The reason why it is so hard to live in Boulder is because housing is so expensive.

Benita Duran:  I always applaud legislation that provides for local control for Home Rule cities like Boulder. I support the ability of our local government to set a minimum wage, and that is what the state legislature has provided to local government. I could support a local increase in the minimum wage, if conditions so warrant, determined by appropriate community engagement. It is no secret that it is more expensive to live and shop in Boulder than in other Colorado communities. And, minimum wage laws, federal and state, are the floor, not the cap to higher wages. So, it makes sense that City Council has flexibility to react to market conditions. There have been extensive research studies refuting the claim that increasing the minimum wage increases unemployment, that raising the minimum wage has shown employment to stay the same, or only a slight decrease. It is one tool in the community’s toolbox to fight income inequality at the local level. We are a unique community, and I believe Boulder businesses can remain competitive, and attract desirable employees, with carefully considered wage increases.

Paul Cure:  As an owner of a local small business it is the way of the world that with wage increases so goes prices to support that increase.

Mark Wallach:     Yes, I do, even acknowledging that it puts additional stress upon small businesses, and that in some cases jobs will be lost as a result. Governing is the act of making choices, and for me the imperative of providing a bit more economic justice for low-wage workers trumps the effects of doing so.

Brian Dolan:  I fully support a living wage for our workers.  I have paid attention to communities that have raised their minimum wage and initial thoughts that it would lead to business failures have not panned out; so far it appears that it has not led to the ruin that was forecasted.  Most costs are passed along and in most cases, people are happy to pay them.

Andy Celani:  I support an increase in the minimal wage,many employers already have to pay their employees more than industry standards to maintain a consistent workforce.

Corina Julca:  Yes, I do support an increase in minimum wage. Employees cannot live in Boulder on $11.10 / hour. So many residents of Boulder complain about the congestion and in-commuters. Part of the solution has to be to gradually raise the minimum wage in accordance with the new state law, which allows for a maximum of a 15% increase per year.  (Other solutions will have to be in the form of better public transportation.) I think the City of Boulder should find more ways to support small businesses, tapping into money from larger corporations, rather than trying to squeeze the small guy.

Gala Orba:  Yes, I would like a minimum wage raise to $15 per hour. I believe the small businesses would have to adjust. They may have to increase the price of their goods or services in order to achieve this. Our town thrives on tourism and I do not believe local consumers and tourism will suffer if we raise some of the costs of our goods and services. If the small business sells what consumers want, they will buy them no matter the cost. That’s just how a society works, we all adjust for the good of more people. Lets spread the cost of a wage increase around so that our workers can afford to live here.

Nikki McCord:  I support the city raising the minimum wage. Many have been left behind when it comes to rising housing costs because their wages haven’t increased as housing and living costs have increased. However, as we talk about raising wages, we must also consider small businesses in this discussion. I work with the Human Services Alliance of Boulder County. Although these small businesses support the most vulnerable in our community, they are sometimes less likely to pay high wages because of their nonprofit structure. Meals on Wheels Boulder has increased all wages to $15/hour or more and EFAA has increased all wages to at least the minimum wage. Small business nonprofits in Boulder have met the challenge of increasing their wages to a $15 minimum wage. Other small businesses can learn from these nonprofits to implement best practices as they increase the minimum wage for their employees.

Susan Peterson:  I believe that we need to consider a broader range of solutions to solve our affordable housing challenges, including raising the Area Median Income (AMI) more equitably across the wage base. Right now, the AMI is going up primarily due to the addition of higher paying jobs at the top end of the range.  For instance, the Average Median Income at Google is $125K vs. the Boulder AMI of $108K.  So, we need to bolster up the low end.  One way I know of to do that is to raise the minimum wage to a point where an individual or family can be self-sustaining.  We also need to increase the availability of housing for middle income residents and I support the City Council’s proposed Middle-Income Housing Down Payment Assistance program, which will both provide more middle income housing with affordability constraints and will help first-time buyers get into the market.  With regard to the impact of a higher minimum wage for small businesses, I think we should look at ways to phase in the raise and offer them some relief to adjust for higher costs of doing business. City Council is considering how we might implement “affordable commercial” as we have “affordable housing” in years past.

Adam Swetlik:  I do, with a graduated scale. The living wage in Boulder County is currently just under $15. I think by 2021 we should hit $15. Small businesses in Boulder are much more impacted by higher rents pushing out existing business, as has been stated by multiple business owners upon closing. We need to look at this issue to help small businesses specifically. Sacrificing the ability for low-wage workers to live here by not imposing a living wage would only make our growing inequality exacerbate even faster.