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Colorado's minimum wage workers will get a 23-cent-an-hour raise starting Jan. 1, thanks to a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2006 that requires their pay to keep up with inflation.

The minimum wage for workers who don't receive tips increases to $8.23 an hour, while the minimum for servers and other workers who receive tips from customers rises to $5.21 an hour.

The increases are the largest since a 28-cent-an-hour jump in 2012. For 2014, the amount went up 22 cents an hour.

Since the amendment took effect, tying changes in the state's minimum wage to the consumer price index for the Denver-Boulder area, the non-tipped wage has increased 20.2 percent and the tipped wage has jumped 36 percent.

The higher minimum wage will boost pay for a full-time worker by $478.40 a year.

An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning Washington, D.C.-based think tank, estimated about 80,000 Colorado workers earn the minimum wage and will get a raise when the new amount takes effect.

The institute estimates that 40,000 more Colorado workers earn wages just above the minimum and likely will receive raises as employer pay scales are adjusted when the new minimum kicks in.

Together, the two groups make up 5.2 percent of the state's wage-earning workforce.

Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said most restaurant owners are aware of the increase because it is required by the state constitution but added that it will "increase costs, and at some point, it affects the number of people employed."

"When costs go up and up, you could see a decrease in the (industry's) workforce," she said.

More than three fourths of those earning the minimum wage in Colorado restaurants work part time, 70 percent are under 25 years old and half are teenagers, Riggs said. The average starting employee in the state's restaurant industry earns the minimum wage for just six months before getting a raise, she said.

Colorado is among 20 states where minimum wage increases take effect Jan. 1, 
increasing pay for more than 4.4 million workers, the Economic Policy Institute said. And 500,000 more workers will get raises later in the year when minimum wage increases take effect in Delaware and Minnesota.

Laws in 29 states covering 60 percent of the nation's population require a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum of $7.25 for non-tipped workers and $2.13 for tipped workers, according to the institute.

Unsuccessful legislation supported by President Barack Obama and introduced last year would have boosted the federal minimum wage for non-tipped workers to $10.10 an hour and adjusted it annually for inflation. The bill also would have gradually increased the wage for tipped workers to 70 percent of the minimum for non-tipped workers.


Business Writer

Business Writer

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