City leaders in Colorado Springs are looking to Denver after its city council unanimously approved a citywide gradual increase in minimum wages to almost $16 by 2022.
“This increase to Denver’s minimum wage will provide a little bit of relief for those who are struggling the most," said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in a press release Monday.
The capital city's decision comes after Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 1210, allowing state municipalities to set their own minimum wages starting in 2020.
Richard Skorman, Colorado Springs city council president, says local discussions will likely ensue as they try to address the rising costs living in the city.
"We haven't brought it up as a city issue at all yet and now that Denver has passed this, maybe time it's time for us to do that," he said.
Skorman said he doubts the city council would vote on a hike for citywide minimum wages, but any local initiatives would require several public input sessions.
"It's really important to look at all sides of the community, not just the people that are struggling to make ends meet, but the people that are employing them," Skorman said. "And so we have to have that broad discussion if we're ever going to address it."
Mayor John Suthers would oppose Colorado Springs following Denver's ordinance, saying increases in minimum wages could lead to even higher costs of living.
"Don't think there's not a relationship between increasing the minimum wage and a higher cost of living," Suthers said. "The apartment complex has to pay more for the people that mow the lawn, tend to the swimming pool, things like that. That's what drives up the cost of living."
Higher wages would likely not affect corporate businesses and franchises. Local small business owners may find themselves facing tough financial decisions, instead, according to the mayor.
"The vast, vast majority of Americans work for small businesses and they have relatively small profit margins," Suthers said. "Whether a restaurant can stay in business has a lot to do with what they've got to pay the waiters and things like that."
With minimum wage increases, residents may also be affected if menu and retail prices go up so a small business owner can make ends meet.
Still, Skorman says frank conversation have to happen at some point.
"I think it's a good discussion," he said. "It's a good one to have because we're also talking a lot about affordable housing and how people that work and make even $15 an hour are having a very difficult time finding a place to live."