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Editorial: Respect Voters on Wage

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According to the city of Albuquerque’s attorney, the City Council has the authority to amend or even overturn the minimum wage increase voters approved last month.

But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

There is little question the $1-an-hour raise — and its automatic cost-of-living increases with no cap — will disproportionately hurt small businesses that don’t have the luxury of absorbing higher payroll costs with volume sales, like large chain operations. This initiative heavily favors national fast food franchises and big boxes over locals.

And there is little doubt it will swell the ranks of the unemployed — especially young people — and lead to cuts in hours and higher prices at the counter. And that’s especially tough on people with fixed incomes.

But there is no question that having councilors delay the increase to $8.50 from Jan. 1 to a phase-in over two years subverts the voters’ will.

In fact, it would subvert it before that will even has a chance to take effect.

Yes, it is bad public policy to have the public determine pay raises that someone else has to pay. And the process was pushed forward through a petition drive, not by the council. Yet that’s the hand the voters dealt by a clear majority — 66 percent.

Should the consequences of the increase prove disastrous, as some business owners fear, then the council should go back to the table at that time, data in hand, and fix it.

But until then, councilors should live with their decision to let someone else — the public, i.e. their bosses — make the call.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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