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PHOENIX -- The push to raise the minimum wage in Arizona has rolled into the Valley.

On Monday afternoon, small business owners, employees and anti-poverty activists joined several state lawmakers for a rally at the State Capitol as part of the "Give America a Raise" bus tour. The message to Congress was clear: Raise the minimum wage in Arizona from $7.90 to $10.10 an hour.

Brandon Cooley runs an insurance agency in central Phoenix and said employers who say they can't afford to pay their workers an extra $2.20 an hour are only hurting themselves.

"They can't afford not to...because (an extra) $88 a week is really not going to make a huge difference to a business owner, and if it is, that business owner can probably do all the work themselves," Cooley said. "I do see having to constantly replace people, having to constantly retrain people and having people not have my back throughout the entire process because I don't have theirs being a much bigger cost problem."

State Sen. Steve Gallardo, former State Rep. Ruben Gallego, along with current State Reps. Mark Cardenas and Victoria Steele were all expected to be on hand and support the push to raise minimum wage.

According to MIT, the living wage in Phoenix to be able to afford housing, medical care, food and transportation is $19,139 per year. Currently, full-time employees making the current minimum wage amounts to $16,432 annually. If full-time Arizona workers made $10.10 an hour, they would earn $21,008 a year.

Cooley said he has six employees on his payroll and all six make well more than the current minimum wage. He says he can't fathom not taking care of the people that make his business tick.

"I can't drive these nice cars and have these nice things, knowing full well that the people running my business are the reason I'm getting these things. I've got to give back to them," Cooley said. "I can't sleep at night knowing that I'm driving a Bentley or Range Rover while my front office manager, who's running the show, is riding her bike to work."

Last month, Connecticut became the first state to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

Jeremy Foster, News Editor

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