Living wage co-sponsor raises concerns

Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones’ ’11 proposal to increase city wages has found another source of opposition: one of its co-sponsors.

The proposal, spearheaded by Jones, seeks to raise the “living wage” — the minimum salary, based on economic indices, for an average household to meet everyday costs — to $14.67 an hour, from $12 for employees of the city and some City Hall-affiliated businesses. City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the current proposal would cost the city upwards of $15 million. Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson said Thursday that he could not support the version of the proposal currently being discussed because of its cost.

According to Goldson’s letter, which was addressed to other co-sponsors of the bill, the city estimated the initial proposal, which was brought to the Board of Aldermen in April, would cost less that $100,000. Now that the city faces a multimillion budget hole for fiscal year 2010-’11, Goldson wrote in the letter, he could not support increasing the living wage “without an adequate means of funding this initiative.” In an interview Sunday, Goldson said that if the proposal adds at all to the city’s budget, he would not support it.

Goldson said “compromises are being discussed,” though he declined to elaborate further. He added that he does not think the full Board of Aldermen will vote on the living wage increase until at least January or February. Goldson explained at the end of his letter that he would remain a co-signer on the legislation.

Jones wrote in an e-mail Saturday that he, Goldson and the other two co-sponsors, Ward 9 Alderman and aldermanic legislation committee chair Roland Lemar and Ward 28 Alderwoman Claudette Robinson-Thorpe, would work to lower the cost of the legislation.

“I’m certainly aware of the economic situation that the city is facing and that in and of itself is not an excuse to stop working for families who need our help,” Jones said Sunday.

The new living wage proposal was heard at a aldermanic committee meeting Tuesday. At the meeting, which was open to the public, members of the city’s non-profit community argued that the law would place a burden on their operations. Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. held a press conference the following day to express his opposition but willingness to work with Jones. On Friday, the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce published an editorial in the New Haven Register condemning the proposal.

“Adding high costs and regulatory requirements to companies who choose a New Haven location must be carefully weighed,” said the editorial, which was not signed by individual members. “Implementation of the proposal would put New Haven at a severe disadvantage with any other city in the Northeast.”

Jones met with city officials Friday. He said they had a “healthy exchange of ideas” but declined to comment further on what was discussed.

The next full Board of Aldermen meeting is Tuesday.

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