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State Minimum Wage to Rise

Folks at the bottom of the pay scale are soon going to get a bit of relief. 

The reason is a 2006 voter-approved law which established a state minimum wage separate from the federal figure. More to the point, that law requires the Industrial Commission to adjust the figure every year. Karen Axsom, director of the commission's labor department, explains.

"It's based on the consumer price index from August to August of each year. And there was a 1.7 percent increase. We round up to 15 cents," Axsom said.

What that means is the current minimum wage of $7.65 an hour will be $7.80 on January 1st, a hike of $6 a week. The federal minimum remains at $7.25 an hour. Employees who earn tips -- and can legally be paid less than the minimum wage -- also could benefit from the commission's action.

"If you are employed in a service position like a wait staff or valet, something like that, where you are tipped, the employer can take a $3 credit," she said.

But she said that requires proof that the employees are, in fact, bringing in at least $3 an hour in tips. Axsom said her agency does not have data on what people make. But she said figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show about 5.6 percent of those in the Arizona workforce at minimum wage. That extrapolates out to about 140,000 people.