Mayor Greg Fischer will veto $10.10 minimum wage, suggests $8.50 to $8.75 compromise
“I support raising the minimum wage on a state and national level. However, increasing the wage locally must be considered in the context of job losses since our surrounding counties will not be increasing their minimum wages," Fischer said in a prepared statement.
Fischer's statement came only a few hours after the ordinance championed by west Louisville Councilwoman Attica Scott passed the council's labor and economic development committee by a 3-2 vote on Monday. It is now headed to the full council on Thursday.
Fischer suggested a compromise of raising the wage -- currently at the federal minimum of $7.25 -- to $8.50 or $8.75. At that level, he said, "local job loss would be minimized and many people would still benefit from the increase."
Fischer's statement marks the first time he's taken a firm stance on the proposed increase, which has been debated for months in the council committee. Previously, the mayor had said only that had reservations about the ordinance.
In his statement, Fischer said his opposition to a $10.10 minimum was "due to my extreme concern about job losses in our city."
He said: "I am most concerned about manufacturing businesses that have a high cost of labor as part of their total business expenses -- and I do not want to see the wage increase lead to a loss of jobs for the very people we want to help."
Earlier Monday, before Fischer issued his statement, Metro Council President Jim King told reporters there would be "attempts" at amending the ordinance at the council's meeting on Thursday to "probably lower it (the proposed minimum wage) a little bit", given that the council does not have the 18 votes needed to override a mayoral veto. There are 17 Democrats on the council, and the proposal has failed to garner support for any of the 9 Republicans.
King himself is still undecided on the ordinance, he added.
As written, the ordinance would gradually raise the minimum wage paid by all employers in Jefferson County to $8.10 on July 1, then to $9.15 on July 1, 2015 and finally to $10.10 on July 1, 2017.
At Monday's meeting, Councilman Ken Fleming, a Republican who voted against the ordinance, tried to delay the vote to hire the University of Louisville's Urban Studies Institute to prepare a report on the proposal's effect on tax receipts, business profits, the cost of goods and jobs.
In a letter dated Dec. 11, Louisville Metro chief financial officer Steve Rowland said the ordinance would cost taxpayers an additional $575,000 annually in payroll as lower-paid employees throughout Metro government – mostly in the parks department and at the zoo – would be brought up to $10.10 per hour.
Rowland also said Metro government would need to create two full-time jobs – an assistant county attorney and a compliance analyst – to enforce the ordinance, at a total cost of $100,000 annually.
But Rowland punted on the broader question of how the wage mandate would affect the city's economy, saying that's a debate for economists.
“Will the business absorb the increased cost, thus reducing their net profits, which will affect taxes collected, or will they increase their prices to cover the increase in labor costs? How will hours worked by these affected businesses be adjusted? These are questions on which I have no particular insight,” Rowland wrote.
Fleming also said Metro government does not have the legal authority to set a minimum wage, a point echoed in a statement Monday from Greater Louisville Inc. CEO Kent Oyler.
"Leading lawyers and high-ranking legislators have called the legality of this ordinance into question because it clearly conflicts with state law,” Oyler said.
But King said the Jefferson County Attorney's office has advised otherwise.
"It could be, obviously, run right over to court and let a judge decide," he said. "But our county attorney has told us, and that's who we rely on, that we have the power to do this."
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