Opinion: Minimum wage hurts small businesses

In November 2016, City of Flagstaff voters passed by a slim margin a local city minimum wage law well above the Arizona minimum wage, and accelerating increases in the city’s future minimum wage mandates to over $15.00 per hour by 2021.  The Greater Flagstaff Chamber in a collective community effort with many other organizations and residents, successfully referred the 2016 ballot proposition with over 9,000 signatures to the 2018 Fall election ballot.  The result of a collaborative, local effort to stop higher wage mandates is Prop 418.  Prop 418, on the 2018 November ballot in the City of Flagstaff, will adjust the city’s extreme $15.50 minimum wage requirement to closely mirror the $12.00 per hour Arizona state wage law plus 50 cents.
People in Flagstaff, as well as people throughout Arizona and the Southwest are alarmed at Flagstaff’s high cost of living.  Flagstaff maintains a housing cost 44% higher than the national average, and collectively, Flagstaff’s cost of living ranks nearly 15% higher than anywhere else in the state.
The current $11 per hour wage requirement is causing undue stress on local business, non-profits, schools and more.  Unfortunately, these are the same businesses who cannot imagine operating at $15.50 per hour, nor the inflation higher wage mandates will bring to the community.
Due to steep increases brought on by the Flagstaff local wage law mandates of 2016, many Flagstaff employees lost full work weeks, and some employees have lost their jobs entirely.  The local wage mandates have also forced local non-profits to cut back services to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our community.  The price of daycare has skyrocketed and elderly residents on fixed incomes are having a harder time to make ends meet.  As the price of goods and services has increased, so have rents for local residents.
The net benefit to the minimum wage worker clearly appears negative, as the cost to live in Flagstaff continues to escalate rapidly.  Flagstaff deserves better, and we do have a chance to vote again to keep Flagstaff competitive and vibrant.  The negative effects on business can be avoided, and we can turn this bad situation around together.
A YES vote on Prop 418 will keep Flagstaff livable and affordable for residents, workers, non-profits, our local schools and businesses alike, while still providing a better than average wage for workers.
An additional 41% wage hike by 2022 is unsustainable and will cause employees to suffer, families to be disrupted, force people out of Flagstaff and create less services for the developmentally disabled.
A YES vote on Prop 418 adjusts the minimum wage to closely mirror our state minimum wagę, will restore balance to our mountain town and sustain the local quality of life we all value and cherish.

Julie Pastick is the President and CEO of the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce.

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