Sunday, March 29, 2015

Good intentions don’t fund the payroll

From page A12 | April 13, 2014 |

The issue: Davis businesses should not be saddled with a $15 minimum wage

It’s an argument rooted in altruism. One looks around and sees people struggling to get by, and the mind leaps to a simple solution: just pay them more. Problem solved, right?

THAT SEEMS to be the thought process behind a signature-gathering effort by local activists to raise the minimum wage in Davis in stages. If it lands on the June ballot, and gets approved by Davis voters, the measure would set the minimum wage at $11 an hour in January 2015, $13 in July 2015 and $15 at the start of 2016. At that point, the minimum wage would be 50 percent higher than the state rate of $10, with further increases linked to inflation.

As is usual in these cases, the proponents zero in on the end result without any regard for the people actually cutting the checks. Employers’ concerns are dismissed out of hand; “providing workers with fairer wages and economic security does not significantly impact the number of jobs,” the petition’s language states.

Why $15 is “fairer” and not $14 or $16, or what a “significant” impact would be are left unsaid. Even better, “decades of research has shown that increasing the minimum wage improves the economic climate and the health of small businesses.” By that logic, we probably should raise it to $30. Think of the improvements …

So far, the Davis Chamber of Commerce has not taken a position, but its members are concerned. In particular, they worry about the lack of debate so far — backers have until May 1 to gather 7,000 signatures, having about 1,000 at last count.

“Many businesses are still recovering from the recession,” the Chamber said, “while we grapple with a fiscal crisis at the city of Davis and deal with a massive unfunded backlog on our roads maintenance.”

PROPONENTS are expected to bring the matter up at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Word is that they will seek to waive the 30-day signature review period and ask the council to begin a fiscal analysis even before the petitions are in.

Whatever else the council decides, however quickly the city moves on this proposal, the council should hold firm and insist that all the usual procedures be followed. That means all the signatures need to be submitted and verified before a next step is taken. The petitioners put a lot of stock in fairness; that applies to them, too.

They’re asking for a huge change, and the economic ripple effects could be seismic. We need a fair and considered deliberation on this issue.

Oh, and while we’re at it: We oppose a city-by-city approach to the minimum wage. The state is the appropriate place for this change to occur.



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