PHOENIX (CN) – Rejecting Arizona businesses’ claims of adverse effects on the state budget, the Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously upheld a statewide minimum-wage hike initiative.
As passed by voters, Proposition 206 raises the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10 an hour and will increase it by 50 cents a year to $12 by 2020. It also requires most employers to give paid time off to their employees.
State employees are exempt from the raise. But earlier this month, business representatives told the state Supreme Court that Proposition 206 was unconstitutional because it would add millions of dollars to the state’s budget through wage increases for private-sector workers in government contracts.
The Arizona Constitution prohibits enacting measures that increase spending without identifying a funding source.
In the state’s response, Assistant Attorney General Charles Grube said Proposition 206 is constitutional because it does not directly propose any mandatory expenditures.
“As attorney general, my job is to uphold the rule of law," state Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement released after the high court announced its decision. "The constitution is designed to protect our rights. It's not a tool to be used to undermine the will of the people."
Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), a campaign-organizer for issues affecting minorities and low-income earners, held a press conference on Tuesday evening to celebrate the ruling.
“This win is the community’s win, it’s LUCHA members’ win, it’s the voter’s win,” said the group’s co-director Alejandra Gomez. “It shows that special interests will not prevail over the community.”
LUCHA members helped pass Proposition 206 by speaking to thousands of voters, Gomez said.
“It’s easy for me to say this is the most important thing that I’ve ever done in my professional life,” Jim Barton, an attorney for Arizonans for Fair Wages and Healthy Families, said at the LUCHA press conference. “Today hundreds of thousands of Arizonans have secured the raise that they gave themselves.”
The Supreme Court said they will issue a written opinion explaining their decision “in due course.”
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