Rep. Steve Court, R-Mesa, said Arizona’s minimum wage, which under a voter-approved law is higher than the federal minimum wage, hurts workers as well as businesses.
“It’s causing employers to employ fewer people,” said Court, the House majority leader. “It also makes us a lot more uncompetitive.”
On Wednesday, the House Commerce Committee endorsed HCR 2056 on a 5-3 party-line vote.
If approved by voters, the measure would allow employers to pay workers who are younger than 20 up to $3 less an hour than the state’s minimum wage if they work fewer than 20 hours a week or are employed for fewer than 90 days. The current state minimum wage is $7.65.
An amendment approved by the committee expanded the resolution to include tipped employees. Employers would pay 40 cents per hour over the federal minimum wage for tipped employees – currently $2.13 an hour.
The current state minimum wage for tipped employees is $4.65 an hour.
In 2006, Arizona voters approved a ballot initiative that increases the state’s minimum wage annually with the cost of living.
Matt McMahon, a joint-venture partner in a company that owns Outback Steakhouse restaurants, told the committee that Arizona’s minimum wage has forced restaurants to reduce staff and cut employee hours.
“Our country was built on capitalism, and our state minimum wage is not capitalistic,” he said.
Three other restaurant owners registered their support, as did groups including the Arizona Restaurant Association, Arizona Retailers Association, Goldwater Institute and National Federation of Independent Business.
Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, who voted for the measure, agreed with the business owners.
“I see the minimum wage as hurting those of the lower socio-economic status, though intentions were to help them,” he said.
Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, who joined Democratic Reps. Catherine Miranda and Lela Alston of Phoenix in voting against the resolution, said college students have told her they already face challenges affording an education.
“This particular ballot proposal, if passed, would make it harder for them to earn the money to stay in school,” she said.
Arizona’s minimum wage:
• $7.65 an hour, as of Jan. 1.
• Adjusts each year to reflect increases in the cost of living.
• Doesn’t distinguish between full-time, part-time or temporary employees.
• Doesn’t distinguish between adults and minors.
• The minimum wage for tipped employees is $4.65, though if tips combined with an employer’s direct wages don’t reach $7.65 then the employer must make up the difference.