PHOENIX -- What can you buy for $12? Enough each week, possibly, to make a difference in the standard of living for some people.
That's how much more folks at the bottom of the wage scale will be making weekly come January, when Arizona employers are going to have to pay their workers at least $7.65 an hour. That's 30 cents an hour more than now.
It also means that the state minimum wage will be 40 cents higher than what is required under federal law.
The order comes from the state Industrial Commission, which concluded that the cost of living has risen 3.8 percent since last year.
Commissioners have that power -- in fact, that requirement -- because of a 2006 voter-approved initiative that created Arizona's first ever minimum wage. Before that, employers in the state were covered under the federal law which, at the time, allowed workers to be paid as little as $5.15 an hour.
That 2006 law also set the new Arizona minimum at $6.75.
But Randall Maruca, director of the commission's labor department, pointed out that same law requires the commission to provide annual cost of living increases, computed according to the Consumer Price Index for urban areas.
That 3.8 percent hike between August 2010 and this past August, multiplied by last year's $7.35 minimum wage would compute out to an additional 27.9 cents. But the law requires the number to be rounded to the nearest nickel.
Hence that 30-cent hike -- or $12 a week, before taxes, for someone working full time.
Maruca's agency does not track how many people would be affected.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic figured last year that about 5.6 percent of all Arizonans who are paid on an hourly basis were earning at or below the minimum wage. The agency stressed, though, that its figures showing people earning less than the minimum does not mean someone is breaking the law, as there are various exemptions.
There are no numbers about how many are currently earning more than $7.35 but below the new $7.65 figure and would be entitled to more.
The change also could have an effect on more than those who now are below $7.65 an hour. Any move to hike the minimum is likely to put pressure on employers to also give raises to those already just above the new minimum to keep them ahead of what new hires will be paid.
Employees who earn tips -- and can legally be paid less than the minimum wage -- also could benefit.
Maruca said that $7.65 figure technically will apply in January to those people, too. But employers can claim a $3 an hour "tip credit," meaning they will be able to put just $4.65 an hour into paychecks.
He said, though, that requires proof that the employees are, in fact, bringing in at least $3 an hour in tips.
The upcoming 30-cent hike is among the larger ones since the law took effect.
Starting with the $6.75 figure in 2007, the minimum went to $6.90 in 2008 and then $7.25 the following year. But minimum wage workers got no relief last year after the Industrial Commission concluded that there was no annual inflation.