Two Aurora lawmakers launch new minimum wage ordinance proposal

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AURORA | Two Aurora lawmakers say they’re introducing a tamped down plan raising the city’s minimum wage to $17 per hour by 2025 — with gains expected after that — after lawmakers spiked a more ambitious proposal in September.

Councilmembers Alison Coombs and Juan Marcano revised their plan after a majority of lawmakers nixed their effort to gradually raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour by 2027. 

The two lawmakers said the plan is more palatable for lawmakers and businesses. A coalition of labor federations and social justice organizations quickly endorsed the measure as a windfall for workers, but the proposal drew sharp condemnations and deep anxieties this week from local officials and business community leaders.

If the plan survives rounds of council voting beginning Nov. 2, Aurora’s minimum wage of $12 per hour would increase to:

  • $12.60 in 2021
  • $13.23 in 2022
  • $14.55 in 2023
  • $16.00 in 2024
  • $17.00 in 2025

After 2025, the minimum wage would continue to keep up with hikes in the U.S. Consumer Price Index — a standard cost of living measurement. 

In a statement, Coombs said the measure would put Aurora on a path to parrot Denver’s minimum wage increases but remain behind them. Local economists and officials raised objections last month to a $20 minimum wage in Aurora, saying the move would create job loss and business flight to Denver. 

The bottom wage there will grow to $15.87 in 2022 and rise thereafter with cost of living gauges. 

Assuming the consumer price index raises annually by 3%, Aurora’s bottom wage would land slightly lower than Denver’s in 2025, according to Coombs. 

“Having heard the concerns and needs of the community, I am looking forward to moving this revised measure forward,” Coombs said in a statement. “This measure creates parity with Denver wages over a gradual timeline and leads the way for a regional approach to addressing soaring costs of living. This is a win for Aurora’s economy, it’s a win for our community, and it’s a win for our essential workers.”

The move is backed by the Live Here, Thrive Here Coalition including the Aurora-based Colorado People’s Alliance, Colorado AFL-CIO, United for a New Economy and Working Families Party. 

In a statement, the Colorado People’s Alliance said the measure would bring “economic relief to more than 29,000 workers in 2021.” 

“Establishing a livable minimum wage would be a step towards providing reparations for communities that have been economically disenfranchised and fighting for our right to a sustainable livelihood,” the organization said.

But for Chance Horiuchi, executive director of the Havana Business Improvement District, the measure would be “devastating” for businesses lining Havana Street already living on the margins. 

She said the uncertainty of the pandemic and recent business restrictions mean business owners don’t know if they can survive the next few months, let alone pay all of their employees $17 an hour in 2025. 

Havana business owners came out en masse to oppose the first proposal. 

Among the new proposal’s fiercest critics is Mayor Mike Coffman, a former Republican Congressman. 

In a tweet that drew backlash on social media, Coffman tweeted Tuesday that “Council Member Coombs cannot resist forcing a job-killing wage on our struggling small businesses.” He entitled the tweet “Dumb and Dumber,” in reference to the plan from Coombs and Marcano. 

 Coffman did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on the tweet. 

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the plan would raise the minimum wage to $17.60 by 2025. The minimum wage would be $17 in 2025.