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Proposal to repeal minimum wage pulled

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PHOENIX -- Arizona workers at the bottom of the pay scale are going to keep getting raises each year to match inflation, at least for the time being.

House Majority Leader Steve Court said Tuesday he has pulled the plug on his proposal to ask voters to repeal the state's minimum wage.

The Mesa Republican noted that the change would require voter approval in November. And he said polling by the restaurant industry, which is heavily affected by the law -- and would have to finance any campaign -- shows that the measure would be defeated.

That, said Court, made getting the Senate votes for the House-passed measure to put the issue on the ballot a meaningless exercise.

Steve Chucri, president of the Arizona Restaurant Association, acknowledged that is the case. He said his industry and others with minimum wage workers, like hotels and motels, are instead focusing on a 2014 ballot fight.

But Chucri said the businesses have work to do between now and then

"We need to get our messaging right," he said.

The 2006 initiative set a state minimum wage of $6.75 an hour. At that time the federal minimum wage, which had governed Arizona employers, was just $5.15.

But for employers with minimum wage workers, the big objection is that the law requires the Industrial Commission to adjust that figure annually to account for inflation. The result is a current state minimum wage of $7.65 an hour, 40 cents more than required under federal law.

Chucri said that's not right.

"People are going to get increases every single year, without merit," he said.

He said polling shows that the public understands that issue. But what it also showed, Chucri said, is that they were confused over the difference between the state and federal roles.

Chucri said he has no idea how many people now being paid the minimum wage are working full-time jobs at that rate, versus students and others who have part-time work.

Court's measure would have set the state minimum wage permanently at the current $7.65 an hour or the federal minimum wage, whichever would be higher. That effectively would wipe out the state minimum wage the moment Congress got around to approving a higher figure.

The most recent adjustment to the state minimum wage, which took effect in January, added 30 cents an hour.

The law does allow a employers to claim a $3 an hour "tip credit," meaning they will be able to put just $4.65 an hour into paychecks. But that requires proof that the employees are, in fact, bringing in at least $3 an hour in tips.


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