Democratic lawmakers in Carson City on Monday pointed to recent examples of short-term economic success following minimum wage increases elsewhere as they argued to do the same in Nevada.
Employment statistics have continued to improve in four states where voters decided in November to raise their minimum wages.
Arizona, specifically, shows that requiring employers to pay people more has so far not resulted in the doom and gloom that business representatives predicted, Democratic Majority Leader Aaron Ford said at a legislative hearing. The Arizona Daily Star reports that the number of people working in Arizona bars and restaurants increased in March 2017 at six times the national rate of job growth.
That bump came just a few months after Arizona’s minimum wage increased from about $8 an hour to $10 an hour on Jan. 1. Nearly 59 percent of Arizona voters supported the ballot measure that will continue to increase the minimum wage until it reaches $12 in 2020, as well as mandate most businesses provide paid sick leave.
“Their citizens, and the businesses that employ them, have been able to reap benefits,” Ford said.
Opponents said that’s not enough time to gauge the effects. Several business representatives and Republican lawmakers said plenty of other data show that raising wages can harm employers.
In Nevada, most employers must pay a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour if they offer health insurance or $8.25 an hour without that benefit.
The Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee heard Senate Bill 106, which would raise the minimums next year to $8 or $9 an hour depending on insurance, and increase them 75 cents a year until they reach $11 or $12 in 2022.
“We’re not asking businesses to go from zero to 100 real quick. We’re not asking them to go to $12 tomorrow,” Ford said. “We’re offering them and requesting that they gradually increase over a five-year period of 75 cents a year.”
Nevada Chief Economist Bill Anderson and Daniel White of Moody’s Analytics told the Nevada Economic Forum earlier this month that median wages are increasing in Nevada for the first time since the 2008 economic downturn — and bringing commodity prices and tax revenue with them.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show Colorado, Maine and Washington were already national leaders for slashing unemployment when voters there, like in Arizona, raised minimum wages through ballot initiatives in November.
Colorado was among the top seven states for decreasing unemployment from March to April of this year. In the same time period, Arizona ranked among the top nine states for new hires.
Nevada led the nation with 0.9 percent job growth in April. Over the last year, only Utah’s 3.3 percent employment increase rivaled Nevada’s 3.6 percent growth.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has repeatedly said he does not support an increase in the minimum wage, which Nevada has not seen in seven years.
Facing that hurdle, Nevada Democrats are keeping in their back pocket a ballot initiative to ask voters to raise wages to $12 in 2025.
“Frankly, we prefer to legislate through this process of deliberation and have a discussion with our colleagues and members of the business community as opposed to going to the ballot,” Ford said in the Monday hearing. “But rest assured there is an effort and there is an alternative.”