How America votes on Tuesday will decide more for restaurateurs than whom they’ll be calling president for the next four years. Here is a quick, simple review of the issues that will be decided by the public on Nov. 8, along with the stances of the major presidential candidates.
Initiatives to increase the state minimum wage are on the ballots in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington. Three of the four call for raising the pay floor in increments to $12 an hour by 2020. Washington’s proposal calls for hitting $13.50 by 2020.
A proposal to decrease the legal minimum will be put before voters in South Dakota. Only teens under 18 could be paid the new minimum of $7.50 an hour, a $1 drop from the current mandated rate for youngsters.
Where the presidential candidates stand on wages
Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton said she would sign a bill raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, essentially saying she’d go along if Congress acts.
Emails that were disclosed by WikiLeaks shows the former secretary of state has not been as enthusiastic privately about such a steep hike, and would prefer a far more moderate increase. The attitude is consistent with the waffling Clinton did early in the campaign, when she phoned in to a labor union and voiced support for a so-called living wage, then quickly backtracked.
Republican Party hopeful Donald Trump has said he, too, favors a rise in the minimum wage, but one far more moderate than a $15-an-hour threshold. The businessman has mentioned $10 as a reasonable minimum. But he’d like the precise amount to be set on a state-by-state basis, rather than having the federal government set the level.
Paid sick time
Minimum wage increases on the ballots in Arizona and Washington would also mandate paid sick time from all employers.
In Arizona, restaurants with more than 15 employees would be required to provide 40 hours of paid sick time per employee per year. Places with fewer staff members would have to provide 24 hours. The leave time would accrue at the rate of one hour per 30 worked.
The proposal in Washington would provide employees one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 they work.
Clinton’s leave plan
The Democratic candidate has pledged to provide all working Americans with up to 12 weeks of paid time off to deal with the illness of a family member or a medical situation. Persons who used the benefit would be entitled to two-thirds of their regular pay, up to a cap that has yet to be determined.
The pay would come from the government, not from employers. Clinton says she’ll collect the funds by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.
Soft drink tax
Measures intended to discourage the consumption of sugary soft drinks are on the ballots in Boulder, Colo., and the San Francisco Bay metroplex (San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif.). Each city’s proposal would tack a per-ounce charge onto wholesale beverage prices, with the assumption that retailers would pass along the increase and foster sticker shock among customers.
In Berkeley, Calif., the first jurisdiction to adopt such a tax, consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks dropped 21% after the surcharge was levied. Simultaneously, consumers in nearby San Francisco and Oakland drank 4% more of the beverages than they did before Berkeley adopted the tax.
Berkeley residents didn’t go dry. Collectively, they have gulped 63% more water than they did before the tax went into effect.
Voters in five states will be asked to consider the legalization of weed for recreational use. Observers say approval in California alone could be a tipping point for the nation as a whole, hastening legalization in markets beyond the referenda states (the other four are Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada).
Why should restaurants care? If Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational use, is the model other areas follow, eateries would enjoy a considerable bump in tourism. Tax collections in the Centennial State have also soared, taking pressure off lawmakers to find new sources of revenue, such as additional taxes. Some operators have also branched into the legal trade, though the hurdles and regulatory requirements are daunting.
Clinton has pledged to defend the Affordable Care Act from efforts by Congress to repeal the law or at least weaken its requirements. She has also vowed to expand its scope and bring down the costs to consumers.
Trump has declared that he will work to repeal the law from the moment he takes the oath of office.