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Arizona Senate panel votes to freeze minimum wage hikes

(Flickr/Donald Lee Pardue)

PHOENIX — An Arizona Senate committee on Monday approved a proposal that would ask voters to roll back a minimum wage initiative that passed by a wide margin in 2016.

The proposal from more than a dozen Republican lawmakers freezes the minimum wage at the current $10.50 an hour and repeals mandatory sick time included in the 2016 voter-approved law. It passed on a 5-3 party-line vote.

Business owners testified that the wage and sick time hikes in Proposition 206 have made it harder to find workers and forced them to cut employment.

Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen, the main author of the measure, said it won’t hurt to ask voters to review the measure now that its effects are more clear. She also said she was fundamentally opposed to the minimum wage boost.

“You cannot pull individuals up by taking from one to give to another,” she said.

Workers testified they were finally able to nearly earn a living wage. Tomas Robles, who ran the Proposition 206 campaign, told the Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee that they heard incorrect testimony about the effects, noting that unemployment is at its lowest level in a decade and retail and hospitality industry employment is up.

“You are less popular than Prop 206 was in 2016,” Robles told GOP Republicans on the panel. “Most importantly you do not care about the will of the voters.”

The 2016 ballot measure raised the minimum wage to $10 in 2017, with step increases to $12 by 2020 and yearly inflation adjustments after that. It also required employers to give workers at least three sick days a year.

The measure passed with 59 percent of the vote in November 2016, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry failed to persuade the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn the new law.

Democrats on the panel opposed the bill, with Sen. Sean Bowie noting that voters in his high-income Tempe-area district supported it at a higher overall rate and he wasn’t going to go against their wishes.

Republican Sen. Bob Worsley said he agreed that voters likely would reject any appeal, but voted for the measure anyway.

“I see no reason why it’s a sin to go back and ask again,” Worsley said.

The bill now moves to the full Senate and if approved to the House. If it passes both chambers, it would appear on the November ballot.

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