Originally appeared in the Fort Collins Forum
Colorado’s November 7 ballot just missed setting a new record for initiatives and referenda we voters need to sort through. Citizens placed seven measures on the ballot and the state legislature added seven more, two shy of the record 16 on the 1914 ballot. Everything from raising wages to legalizing marijuana to banning gay marriage (again!), as well as technical measures on petition deadlines, term limits and obsolete constitutional provisions, will be up for a vote. As a public service, here’s a guide to some of the issues.
Raising Colorado’s minimum wage: Despite giving themselves repeated hefty raises, the US Congress has refused to raise the federal minimum wage in a decade. Stuck at $5.15 an hour, a full-time minimum wage worker earns a princely $10,712 a year – not even enough to lift a small family out of poverty. Amendment 42 would raise the state minimum wage to $6.85 per hour for most workers, and adjust the wage annually for inflation. Contrary to popular myth, most minimum wage workers are not teens, and raising the minimum wage actually stimulates, not hurts, the economy. That’s because low-paid workers will immediately turn around and spend the money in their communities on things like housing, food and clothing, rather than hide it in tax shelters in the Cayman Islands. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that of the 12 states with minimum wages above the federal level, seven had job growths rates above the national average, with five below. In addition, raising the wage floor has a ripple effect, raising wages for all lower-paid workers. That’s the kind of percolate-up economics – a real rising tide to lift all boats – that America should be all about.
Domestic partnerships and gay marriage: Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Colorado, but defenders of “traditional marriage” want more. Though unable to explain concretely how allowing same-sex couples to wed in any way threatens heterosexual couples (or why Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the US), they want to write this discrimination into the state constitution through Amendment 43. Don’t let them. As somewhat of a counterpoint, Coloradoans for Fairness is backing Referendum I, which provides same-sex couples the opportunity for basic