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Colorado to lower its minimum wage

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Steve Chiotakis: Later this morning, we’re going to get the government’s take on retail inflation — the Consumer Price Index report. And in some cases retail prices have fallen a bit since last year: gasoline, some grocery items. And that’s mostly good news: wages go a little further as prices fall. Unless you happen to be a minimum-wage worker. In Colorado. Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman explains.


Bill Thoeness: We were a little surprised.

Mitchell Hartman: Colorado Labor Department spokesman Bill Thoeness says after crunching the annual inflation numbers, his office has to do something no state has done ever — lower the minimum wage. For most workers it’ll fall 3 cents to $7.25 an hour.

THOENESS: Colorado voters amended the state constitution to tie the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index.

Nine other states also raise their wage when prices go up. But unlike Colorado, they leave it the same when prices go down, says Paul Sonn of the National Employment Law Project.

PAUL SONN: Taking a step backwards, even a few pennies, is the wrong direction.”

Over a year those pennies add up, says Bill Thoeness.

THOENESS: $62.40 doesn’t sound like too much. To those people on minimum wage it makes a big difference in terms of what they can afford.

The change takes effect in January. Colorado officials are exploring whether they can bend the constitution to spare their 50,000 poorest workers a pay cut.

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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