The mayor of Flagstaff said Monday it would be wrong to penalize his city — or any other — if it decides to enact its own “living wage” requirements.
Jerry Nabours said he understands the desire by Gov. Doug Ducey to have a single minimum wage in Arizona. That is currently $8.05 an hour, a figure mandated by a 2006 statewide vote.
And the mayor said he personally believes that a move to put a higher figure on the November ballot in Flagstaff if the council refuses to act is a bad idea.
But Nabours, who attended Ducey’s State of the State speech on Monday, said the governor went too far in threatening to take away his city’s share of state revenues if the city pursues that path.
“The law is that there is local control,” the mayor noted, citing a state constitutional provision that gives charter cities the right to set their own policies on local matters.
So far 18 cities have adopted charters, including Tucson, Flagstaff, Prescott and Yuma.
“If the people of Flagstaff want to have a different minimum wage, then that is probably their right,” Nabours said. “And the state should not try to back-door usurp that right.”
The mayor said the issue of different cities with different wage structures probably would cause havoc in metropolitan areas where communities bump up against each other.
“You wouldn’t want Mesa to have one wage or Chandler to have another,” Nabours said. But he said that’s not an issue for Flagstaff, isolated from other cities.
Personally, Nabours said he opposes what is being pushed by a coalition. It wants the council to recognize the high cost of living in Flagstaff. And if that fails, the group wants to take the issue directly to voters.
“We are a very heavy tourist service locale,” the mayor said. “And I think it would detrimentally affect that industry.”
In his speech, Ducey vowed to use “every constitutional power of the executive branch and leverage every legislative relationship” to block local living wage laws. He specifically mentioned changing the formula for how state tax dollars are divided up among cities.
Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said the governor’s threat of lost dollars is aimed at elected officials in Flagstaff and elsewhere.
“He’s willing to put state shared revenue on the table in order to stop these kinds of policies,” Scarpinato said. “But his hope would be that would never happen.”
But Scarpinato sidestepped questions about whether his boss was trying to keep local voters from making that decision themselves, saying Ducey would address that if such a measure got on the ballot.l