Committee passes San Diego $13 minimum wage proposal

SAN DIEGO - A plan to put a proposed incremental increase in the minimum wage before San Diego voters in November was forwarded Wednesday to the full City Council by the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

City Council President Todd Gloria is leading a drive to get the proposal, which would also require that employers provide five earned sick days each year, on the ballot in this fall's general election.

His plan, passed 4-1 at the committee level, will now go before the full City Council, which needs to grant approval before the item can be placed on the ballot.

The city currently abides by the state minimum wage -- $8 an hour -- which is set to increase to $9 an hour next month and $10 an hour in 2016.

Gloria based his proposed San Diego minimum hourly wage of $13.09 on a study by the Center on Policy Initiatives, showing that's the least amount of money needed to live in San Diego on a bare-bones budget without government assistance.

"The need to raise the minimum wage in San Diego is clear," Councilman Ed Harris said.

Last week, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and San Diego Chamber of Commerce released a report that said a wage increase above that mandated by the state would hurt the city's competitiveness and force local businesses to cut back workers' hours or raise prices.

The two organizations also said the CPI study was flawed because many people making minimum wage don't actually live in low-income households and don't always rent one-bedroom apartments.

The CPI countered that the opposition report was "riddled with inconsistencies and assertions that are not backed by data." CPI Executive Director Clare Crawford said multiple studies show that minimum wage increases boost the economy.

If the proposal becomes law, San Diego's minimum hourly wage would increase to $11.09 in July 2015, $12.09 in July 2016 and $13.09 in 2017. In future years, the standard would be indexed to inflation.

Harris and committee Chairwoman Sherri Lightner both said those numbers might have to be adjusted when the plan is taken up by the full City Council.

Concern was also expressed over the impact of the proposal on restaurant employees who depend on tips and on nonprofit organizations. Councilman David Alvarez suggested splitting the proposals into two ballot measures -- one for the minimum wage increase and the other on sick days.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer opposes the plan, according to Almis Udrys, the mayor's director of government affairs.

"The mayor continues to be concerned with putting San Diego at a competitive disadvantage against any other cities around us, and we continue to look forward to an independent economic analysis of the proposal and its impact on the ability of San Diego to create, grow and retain jobs," Udrys said.

Richard Barrera, who heads the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, said business concerns are overblown, based on a recent experience in San Jose. Advocates of the wage hike say employment and business creation have increased since the minimum pay rate was set at $10.15 an hour.

"If we enact this proposal, 285,000 San Diegans will now have access to earned sick days, 220,000 working San Diegans will see an increase in their pay, an increase that averages $3,000 a year that would put $660 million into our local economy, and we will see one out of every three working women see an increase," Barrera said.

Numerous business representatives told the committee members that they opposed the measure, including farmers, restaurateurs and operators of home healthcare companies.

None of several other proposed ballot measures that were presented to the committee passed. They included:

-- revising the City Charter to protect the public's right to review public records
-- amending City Charter sections on how to set salaries for elected officials
-- raising the hotel room tax by 5 percent to 15.5 percent
-- transferring the authority for certain environmental reviews to the San Diego Association of Governments
-- amending charter sections on providing funding for Balboa Park

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