The Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce does a fair job of summarizing the reasons for and against Referred Law 20, Senator David Novstrup’s youth sub-minimum wage. Let’s compare their efforts to divine what proponents and opponents think:
Proponents feel that failure to establish a youth minimum wage minimizes the number of entry-level jobs that employers can provide and when this occurs, it restricts the opportunities that could be provided for more young workers. They also believe that without a youth minimum wage fewer jobs would be available for workers who need them the most, due to the economic constraints that a universal minimum wage would impose upon businesses, leading to a constriction of the job supply in South Dakota [Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, issue brief, approved 2016.07.27].
Notice that these theoretical arguments hinge on empirical claims for which no firm South Dakota data has been supplied. In fact, South Dakota and Minnesota have seen no such harms from increasing the minimum wage, and properly controlled research shows no negative impacts on teenage employment.
Now for the words the Chamber puts in opponents’ mouths:
Opponents believe a youth minimum wage takes advantage of a minor by paying them less for doing equivalent work as an adult—that people should be paid on merit, not on arbitrary distinctions based on age. In addition, they believe legislators have ignored the will of the people when IM 18 was passed by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin, and where the legislature abdicated the legal effect of IM 18 through the passage of SB 177 just a few months later in March 2015 [SF Chamber, 2016.07.27].
Note that these arguments require far less evidence and are far harder to refute than the proponent arguments. The youth minimum wage makes it possible to pay a seventeen-year-old less for the same work as the nineteen-year-old next to her is performing. The age distinction is arbitrary: we can find able, diligent sixteen-year-olds and bumbling, laggardly twenty-year-olds and fifty-year-olds. The voters did pass Initiated Measure 18, the minimum wage increase, by a 55–45 vote, and the votes of the Novstrups and other Republicans did abrogate (I think that’s the word the Chamber wanted) the legal effect of IM 18. Each one of those statements is plainly true, requiring only reference to the 2014 election results, the text of each law, and our own experiences with workers of different ages.
The Chamber emphasizes in its own words, not just the words it ascribes to opponents, that Referred Law 20 “was passed into law in an attempt by the legislature to override the legal effect of IM 18.” The legal effect of IM 18 was the will of the voters. The Legislature passed Referred Law 20 to override the will of the voters. Even the Sioux Falls Chamber gets that fact.