The city of Flagstaff’s voters passed Proposition 414 Flagstaff’s Minimum Wage Law, a voter initiative, with 54 percent of the vote in November 2016. Proposition 414 was amended by a supermajority of the Flagstaff City Council on March 21, 2017, to slow the rate at which the minimum wage would increase. It is set to be $15.50 in 2022. In November 2018, Proposition 418, also a voter initiative, was put on the city ballot asking the voters to bring Flagstaff’s minimum wage in line with the State of Arizona’s minimum wage ($12.00/HR). Proposition 418 failed with 56 percent voting “yes” to keep Proposition 414 in place.
Since Nov. 2016, we have seen some unintended consequences beginning to affect our community. Youth workers having difficulty finding jobs, hourly wage earners experiencing decreased hours, food and drink prices are higher, service charges are being added to the cost of food and beverages in restaurants and workers are being laid off. We have seen rents increase; small and large business owners have concerns about compaction of salaries and finally the inability to continue current workers' hours while the minimum wage goes up.
Our min. wage is $13.00/hour. The state is at $11.00/hour. The State legislator has already passed a law that mandates that any state contract that is offered in Flagstaff will have to be supplemented by city funds, using general fund monies to make up the difference between $11.00 and $13.00 hourly wage. We will see that bill from the State possibly in April. Flagstaff will be billed $2.00 for every hour that is worked under a state contract. In 2021, the State wage will be $12.00 Flagstaff wage will be $15.00, the City of Flagstaff will need to pay $3.00/ hour to make up the difference for every hour worked under a State contract. In January 2021, Flagstaff's wage will go to $15.50 an hour, and the state wage will be $12.00/hour. The City of Flagstaff at that point will be paying $3.50/hour to the state to make up the difference between State and City wages. It seems as though some state representatives don’t agree with the community of Flagstaff raising our minimum wage, and they feel as though the rest of the State should not pay for Flagstaff’s decision to increase our minimum wage. They do not want other cities in the State to raise their minimum wage. I feel it is clear that they are making Flagstaff pay the difference because they want to discipline our community. I am aware of these criticisms and the creation of punitive laws that have come from our legislators at the Capital. This law targets the City of Flagstaff’s state shared revenue, which directly feeds into the city’s general fund. Targeting these funds puts the entire city’s budget at risk. The city’s general fund is used for a range of services from critical public safety services, necessary rode work and Library operation to name just a few.
The City Council had ordered an independent study to gain accurate data regarding the positive and unintended consequences of 414. This study was to be completed by Jan. 31st 2020 or so I thought. I hoped that armed with data and a tool kit filled with strategies and suggestions for keeping our businesses healthy and our workers employed and working. Sometimes I struggle with the prioritization of workers first or business first but quite frankly I do not see any separation. Workers need healthy, strong businesses to work in and businesses need healthy, qualified employees. It is a symbiotic relationship; one does not exist without the other.
Most important, we as a city, need to work together on this. We are new ground. Please do not let this split our community. We are in this together. You know most of the cities that have changed their minimum wage have their state government’s support… we do not! We will celebrate the great impacts and we will figure out “the not so great impacts” and we will do it together.