Crains New York had a good piece on the living wage legislation currently being debated in NY. “The Bronx lawmaker said the bill, which would compel employers at projects that receive city subsidies to pay $10 an hour plus benefits, or $11.50 without benefits, is designed to “build a stronger economy,”.
I’ve spoken in earlier posts about the need for economic impact studies in NY with regard to financial legislation — just as construction projects necessitate an environmental impact study in order to assess the pros and cons and to find out the true cost, the same process should be applied to economic legislation. A bill such as this perfect fodder for this type of assessment.
Councilman Oliver Koppell, the primary sponsor of the City Council’s controversial living wage bill, has been writing to its opponents in recent weeks to explain its “core rationale” and to propose ways to narrow its scope.
The Bronx lawmaker said the bill, which would compel employers at projects that receive city subsidies to pay $10 an hour plus benefits, or $11.50 without benefits, is designed to “build a stronger economy,” and that it was never intended to apply to nonprofits, small businesses and residential projects.
He said he’s considering broadening an exemption to carve out small businesses with annual revenues of $1 million or less; raising the subsidy threshold that triggers the bill to above $100,000; clarifying that certain subsidies like the Industrial and Commercial Abatement and J-51 incentives are exempt; and reducing the record-keeping requirement to six years from 30.
A source close to the Council said the subsidy threshold could be bumped up to as high as $1 million and the small business exemption could be raised to as much as $5 million.
In an interview, Mr. Koppell said the proposed amendments stem from testimony provided by opponents at a City Council hearing on the bill last month. “We don’t want to do anything that will discourage economic activity,” he said. “There are some clear issues raised at the hearing that should be taken care of.”
Proponents of the bill say the city should not subsidize projects that create “poverty-wage” jobs. They argue that stores benefit indirectly from subsidies granted to their landlords, and thus it is fair to ask them to pay more than the state minimum wage.
Opponents, however, contend the bill is flawed beyond repair and say amending it will not satisfy them.
“Koppell is trying to change the bill primarily because there has been broad opposition voiced to the legislation from across all five boroughs,” said Nancy Ploeger, president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Five Boro Chamber Alliance, which is leading opposition to the bill. “Wage mandates, regardless of amendments from the City Council, are a nonstarter from the perspective of the business community.”
Ms. Ploeger said she has written to Mr. Koppell on behalf of the coalition offering to meet with him to “discuss ways to promote job creation” in the city. “This bill is not one of them,” she said.
Proponents of the bill said they consent to Mr. Koppell’s proposed changes. “We’re trying to get a bill passed,” said a spokesman for the Living Wage NYC coalition, which is led by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “These changes actually strengthen the bill while keeping its core focus the same.”
The bill has 30 sponsors in the City Council, four shy of the number needed to overcome a veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has expressed disdain for wage mandates.
But City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who decides whether the bill comes to a vote, has yet to take a stance on the measure. She did meet with Mr. Koppell to discuss the revisions and expressed appreciation for his willingness to compromise. But she is focused on crafting a city budget for the fiscal year that begins next month, not on living-wage legislation.
“Basically, I think the speaker’s view on the bill is ‘let’s get the budget done,’ Mr. Koppell said.