EMPLOYERS AWAIT STAMP OF APPROVAL ON STATE MINIMUM WAGE RESULTS

 

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Voters’ approval on Nov. 8 of minimum-wage ballot initiatives in Arizona, Colorado and Washington means that the 2017 hourly minimum wage in these states is to be greater than the inflation-adjusted wage increases recently announced by the states’ labor departments.

Employers preparing for upcoming wage adjustments may feel in limbo until the preliminary election results are official. How long that will take depends on the state.

This fall, employers received guidance from state labor departments of inflation-adjusted wage increases to take effect Jan. 1, 2017, raising Arizona’s $8.05 hourly minimum wage to $8.15; Colorado’s $8.31 hourly minimum wage to $8.56; and Washington’s $9.47 hourly minimum wage to $9.53. 

Then, on Nov. 8, Arizona’s Proposition 206, Colorado’s Amendment 70 and Washington’s Initiative 1433 were approved, based on preliminary election results. The voter-approved wage increases will supplant those announced by the state labor departments, but only once election results are final.

States generally have different time periods for verifying election results, which often are posted in a newspaper or on a website or in a public place, such as a court house.

In Arizona, preliminary election results indicated that Proposition 206 was approved by 59 percent, raising the state’s $8.05 hourly minimum wage to $10 on Jan. 1, 2017, and to $10.50 in 2018, $11 in 2019 and $12 in 2020, with the wage adjusted for inflation in subsequent years. 

Arizona’s law requires that results be verified six to 20 days after the election, with the state certifying the results by the fourth Monday after the election. For employers, that means possibly waiting until early December for a voter-approved wage increase to be official. 

Colorado’s Amendment 70, which was approved by 54 percent, according to preliminary election results, raises the state’s $8.31 hourly minimum wage to $9.30 on Jan. 1, 2017, with the wage increased by 90 cents each year until reaching $12 in 2020. The wage would be adjusted each year for inflation.

Colorado law requires that by Nov. 28, or 18 days after the election, a canvass board is to send its certified ballot count to the secretary of state to review and to determine within 30 days after the election if a recount is needed. The election results are to be finalized by Dec. 8, according to the secretary of state’s website.

Running parallel to the process of finalizing election results, is the labor department’s rulemaking process to finalize the proposed minimum wage order that is to take effect Jan. 1. A timeline that requires the department to submit its proposed wage order to the state’s attorney general by Nov. 11. 

The Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment planned to revise its proposed rules to reflect the minimum wage rates as stated in Amendment 70 and submit the final rule to the attorney general’s office Nov. 10, a department official told Bloomberg BNA on Nov. 10. 

The final wage order announcing the increase is then published in the state’s register, typically in early December.

In Washington, preliminary election results indicated that Initiative 1433 was approved by 59 percent, raising the state’s $9.47 hourly minimum wage to $11 on Jan. 1, 2017, and $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and $13.50 in 2020, with the wage adjusted for inflation in subsequent years.

In Washington, the county canvassing board must complete its canvass within 21 days after the election, Nov. 29; the secretary of state has 30 days after the election to certify results. The election results are to be officially finalized by Dec. 8, the secretary of state’s website said.

The state’s labor department generally sends out a news release in December as a reminder of what the new minimum wage would be, a department official told Bloomberg BNA. The state also changes about a dozen pages on its website to reflect the minimum-wage change, the official said.

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