State lawmakers spent more than four hours on March 13 debating an issue they have no control over.
House Democrats argued in favor of a resolution to support an increase in the federal minimum wage, an economic policy debate that is currently …
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House Democrats argued in favor of a resolution to support an increase in the federal minimum wage, an economic policy debate that is currently raging at the national level.
The resolution is non-binding and will do little to impact the battle that will soon take place in Congress. Still, Democrats and Republicans argued at length — and at times fiercely — over a proposed federal wage hike for low-income earners.
Democrats argued that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour makes it difficult for workers to afford housing and basic necessities. And, Democrats said, raising the wage would reduce the need for low-income earners' reliance on government assistance programs.
“I think we can all recognize that families are struggling and continue to struggle,” said Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, who was a reduced lunch fee recipient as a student and who once worked for minimum wage. “I know what it's like not being able to fill your (gas) tank all the way because you cant afford the gas.”
But Republicans countered that a hike in the minimum wage would have an adverse impact on low wage earners because small business owners wouldn't be able to afford to keep them employed.
“There's going to be less people employed as a result of that and we're actually going to hurt those we're trying to help,” said House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland.
President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress are pushing for legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Democrats argue that the wage hike would lift millions of Americans out of poverty. The Colorado House resolution asserts that raising the federal minimum wage would “significantly boost the economy at large by increasing purchasing power of workers, thereby increasing the United States' gross domestic product.”
Democrats also contend that Coloradans are on their side on this issue, citing the voter-backed 2006 Initiative 42, which raised the state minimum wage and tied it to inflation. The state's current minimum wage is $8 an hour.
But Republicans cited a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimates that the proposed minimum wage hike would result in the loss of 500,00 jobs. The White House points to estimates in the same study that indicate that more than 16 million Americans would get larger paychecks through a minimum wage increase.
At one point during the lively House debate, Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, had to gavel the House to order after cheers and applause rang out from Republicans, who were supporting their GOP colleagues' arguments in opposition to the resolution.
Republicans also tried to tack on an amendment to the resolution that would have required it to be heard in a House committee — something that is usually reserved for legislation — so that citizens could show up to testify.
The resolution passed the House following a 38-24 vote. Rep. Jared Wright of Fruita was the only Republican who voted yes.
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