Summit County commissioners punt local minimum wage vote after opposition from Chamber, Breck mayor
BRECKENRIDGE — In a 2-to-1 vote, the Summit Board of County Commissioners decided to continue to next week a resolution that would put a question on the 2019 ballot asking voters whether they approve a local minimum wage in Summit County.
Commissioners Karn Stiegelmeier and Thomas Davidson voted to continue the resolution to next week. Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence dissented.
As proposed in the resolution, the local minimum wage would start at $12 an hour in 2020 and increase for the next three years to $15 an hour. The momentum to pass a local minimum wage began when the state passed a law in March allowing local governments to pass their own minimum wage.
Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula, speaking in his official capacity, told the commissioners during the public comment period that he was firmly opposed to placing the minimum wage question on the ballot.
“We’ve had an incredible relationship between the county and town for 40 years,” Mamula said. “Everything we’ve done we did hand in hand. Rarely do I come to ask you not to do something, but this is one of the times.”
Mamula said Breckenridge businesses haven’t had an opportunity to have a dialogue about minimum wage and that the ramifications of passing a minimum wage by ballot are unknown. Small businesses also would struggle if a $15 per hour minimum wage was passed in Summit, he added.
“It may put smaller guys out of business,” Mamula said. “This is the wrong tack. I ask that you reconsider putting the question on the ballot.”
Mamula was joined in opposing the resolution by Tony Pestello, owner of the iFurnish and iMattress furnishing stores in Frisco and former president of the Summit County Chamber of Commerce.
Pestello read a statement from the Chamber, which represents more than 400 Summit businesses, in which the Chamber stated its opposition to allowing the minimum wage question based on free market principles.
Pestello, who had voiced his opposition to minimum wage during a previous meeting, continued to assert that a local minimum wage beyond what state and federal government requires was not right for Summit.
“I don’t believe in minimum wages being set by government,” Pestello said. “And small businesses can’t hire anybody at $15 an hour.”
Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence dissented on continuing the resolution to next week as well as putting the question on the ballot. She said the towns had not been consulted, that there were other legislative ways to pass a local minimum wage and that there was plenty of time to gather information before placing the question on the ballot.
“I think this was a surprise and not the way to reach consensus,” Lawrence told her fellow commissioners.
The resolution will be taken up again at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the commissioner’s hearing room at the Old County Courthouse, 208 Lincoln Ave. in Breckenridge.
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