Colorado to raise its minimum wage to $8.23 in 2015

Aldo Svaldi --- The Denver Post 

Colorado will raise its minimum wage 23 cents to $8.23 an hour at the start of the new year, putting it among two dozen states lifting their lowest pay levels in 2015.

The hike should generate about $34.9 million in additional wages for 80,000 minimum-wage workers in Colorado, as well as another 40,000 workers making just above the minimum, according to estimates by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-of-center think tank.

The extra money flowing to both groups should boost the state's economic output by $22.1 million next year, the group estimates.

For a worker putting in 40 hours a week at the new minimum wage, the hike should generate about $478 extra next year than this year.

But Shelby Ramirez-Martinez, an Adams County resident, said a rent increase for next year has more than eaten up any wage increases she and her husband might see.

"We just want to be able to pay our bills and put food on our table," said Ramirez-Martinez, who is making just above the new minimum wage at an administrative and housekeeping position at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver.

Ramirez-Martinez, 50, estimates a family in metro Denver needs two workers earning at least $15 an hour each to make ends meet. She and her husband are well short of that, and have lost a car, faced a utility shut-off and had to skip purchasing Christmas gifts for their children and grandchildren.

"We weren't able to buy any Christmas gifts this year," she said. "We made some cake pops."

Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 that raised the state's minimum wage to $6.85 an hour from $5.15 and linked future changes to the inflation rate.

Of the 20 other states adjusting wages at the start of the year, eight have smaller wage increases than Colorado, while 12 have larger ones, including five states increasing their minimum wages by $1 an hour or more.

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