In just four weeks, voters will pick the new president and, among other things, Coloradans will decide whether or not to raise the state's minimum wage.
If passed, Amendment 70 would raise the current $8.31 an hour minimum pay to $12 by 2020. In 2017, the pay would be raised to $9.30 and increase to 90 cents each year until it reaches $12.
Some community leaders and elected officials in support of the increase are taking a Minimum Wage Challenge where they'll live $15 a day for three days.
The Colorado Families For a Fair Wage, the group in support of the state-wide pay increase, came up with the $15 amount. They calculated weekly earnings at $332.40 and subtracted $227.39 for weekly housing costs and taxes.
"That leaves you about $110 a week to live on for everything else, which is around $15 a day for food, for transportation, for entertainment, for emergencies for anything else you need," said State Senator Mike Johnston.
Johnston supports the wage increase and is taking the Minimum Wage Challenge. For each of the next three days, he is going to live on the $15 to see how he gets by.
"I think it's kind of tacky and tasteless that they're trying to take situations of poverty and use it as a political tactic," said Tyler Sandberg, campaign manager for Keep Colorado Working, the group opposed to the ballot's wage increase.
Sandberg said the Minimum Wage Challenge is making light of people's real life situations.
Johnston admits he doesn't have to worry about where his next meal comes from and that this challenge is putting things in perspective, especially after a grocery store worker had to remove food from his bag when he went over budget.
"I would have normally just said, 'Oh, who cares? I'm $3 over. I don't want to make a scene.' But that's a luxury to not make a scene, right?" he said.
Sandberg believes while low-paid workers need more money, the current ballot measure doesn't work as it would put stress on businesses.
"You're forcing a small, family owned store in main street Alamosa to pay the same starter wage increase as a Walmart in Denver. That's not fair and that's not feasible," he said.
"I think to be able to roll it in gradually overtime, to say it's not wake up tomorrow and everyone in the state will be paying $12. I think that gradual approach allows businesses to accommodate to it," said Johnston.
Sandberg believes a pay increase ballot measure should include small business exemptions and a rural rate minimum wage difference.
"We're a state of 5 million people. You can't craft a one size fits all because Walsenburg, Colorado is very, very different cost of living than it is in downtown Denver or Cherry Hills Village," he said.
While the cost of living differs across the state, Johnston said grocery prices among other costs are close to the same no matter where you live.
"I think this is certainly a floor not a ceiling and just to say there should be a common expectations for a livable wage whether you're in Alamosa or downtown Denver seems to me a fair expectation," said Johnston.
We posted this story on Facebook today and had several comments. Get involved in the conversation.
Mike Tullis: Woohoo, a whole 3 days. They'll really know the paycheck to paycheck struggle after 3 days. And we're not including housing, utilities, etc? Yeah, really talking it seriously.
Graciela Guevara: Are they serious?? If this is real, this sound like a really bad joke, this is humiliating for the people that have to live and support a family with a minimum wage.
Tony Mascarenas i think it should be a YEAR challenge, instead of three measly days; which doesn't compare to all the trails and tribulations the 'working poor' have to deal with, sometimes; seemingly on an hourly basis. Or, has many of those on the Hill, forgotten what's like to struggle every day, trying to stay within the parameters of a budget stretched so thin, that even a sneeze could blow it all to heck.
Alejandro Stephens Minimum wage jobs are not meant to support a household... They are part of the economy that allows lower value goods like fast food to me made available at an attractive price. If someone is trying to live/raise a family off a minimum wage salary that is a consequence of their decisions and the government has no right to insert itself into an agreement between two private parties, a worker and an employer.
Zach Gulley: 3 whole days!?! How will they ever survive?! SMH do it for 3 months then let's see how their mindsets are.