PHOENIX — Voters will head to the polls in Arizona next Tuesday with two ballot measures to consider in addition to numerous candidates.
One of those measures, Proposition 205, would legalize marijuana in the state and has received the lion’s share of attention and debate. The other, Proposition 206, has not been discussed as much but is still a large issue.
Prop. 206, if it passes, would raise the minimum wage in Arizona to $12 per hour by 2020 and would make sick time a right afforded to most workers.
But with so little discussion about the proposition, I wanted to dig a little deeper and find out what it could mean for Arizona.
So what, exactly, would Prop. 206 do?
Prop. 206 would take the hourly minimum wage from $8.05 to $12 by 2020 and require employers to pay sick time to employees. If approved, the base wage would rise to $10 an hour next year, then increase every year until 2020.
For comparison, the federal minimum is $7.25 per hour.
It also allows workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, depending on the size of the business, and broadens the conditions that allow for sick time to include mental or physical illness or needing to care for a family member.
If it fails, Arizona’s minimum wage would stay at $8.05 per hour (which can be adjusted for cost of living) and it will be up to employers to offer sick pay.
What would it cost Arizona?
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee said it’s hard to determine the impact of a minimum wage increase, though many believe it will result in higher labor costs for Arizona businesses. The committee found that about 706,000 workers earned less than $12 per hour in 2015.
According to a fiscal impact statement obtained by Ballotpedia, workers would likely make more than $3 per hour more in 2020 than under the current law.
The committee was divided on the impact higher wages could have. It argued that employers could pass on increased labor costs to consumers or decrease employment, though there is little conclusive evidence a minimum wage hike impacts jobs.
There is also a theory that higher wages could mean reduced welfare costs but those could be offset by higher fees charged by state-hired contractors.
The committee said there is even less research into guaranteed sick days. However, the Department of Labor argued the benefits of such a policy last year.
Who is supporting Prop. 206?
According to Ballotpedia, a sizable number of Arizona officials — particularly Democrats — have backed the ballot measure.
“No one who works 40 hours a week should have to live in poverty and decide between buying groceries, medicine or paying the bills,” U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) told the Tucson Weekly. “Raising the minimum wage offers hardworking families the opportunity to put food on the table, care for their children, and creates a better future for our state.”
A variety of labor and family organizations and some unions have also said they support Prop. 206.
Who is against Prop. 206?
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is likely the ballot measure’s most significant opponent.
In the same Tucson Weekly report above, he said he’s spoken with two companies that primarily hire minimum wage workers — McDonald’s and Taco Bell — and was not encouraged by what he heard.
“They said, ‘Fine. The next time you drive up to a window, you won’t be talking to a person. The next time you they hand you a hamburger and French fries, it will come out a slot. … They have a certain profit margin. They cannot raise their cost of their product or people will stop purchasing it. So what are they going to do? They’re going to automate.
The Arizona Restaurant Association, along with several local chambers of commerce and other organizations, have said they do not support Prop. 206.
And what do the voters think?
While we obviously won’t know what the voters determined as far as Prop. 206’s fate until next Tuesday, it seems to be doing well in polling.
About 58 percent of the 779 voters polled said they favor the measure, about 32 percent oppose it and 10 percent were undecided, according to the Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll released earlier this month.
Cronkite News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.