San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Friday vetoed a measure to raise the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 over the next three years, which City Council President Todd Gloria almost immediately pledged to veto.
The measure has been steadily backed by six of the nine council members, a two-thirds majority, which is enough to withstand a mayoral veto. Gloria said the council will meet to respond to the veto within the next 30 days, as required by law.
If the veto is overridden, the measure would take effect Jan. 1, when the minimum wage would rise from the current $9 per hour to $9.75. It would rise to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2016, and $11.50 on Jan. 1, 2017. The measure also would require businesses to let their employees earn up to five paid sick days per year.
Opponents of the measure, ranging from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to individual restaurateurs, hoteliers and retailers, are laying the groundwork for placing a referendum on the ballot to overturn the measure.
Since the City Council is unlikely to call for a special election on the measure, the referendum would probably not appear until June 2016, by which time the wage will have already risen to $10.50.
In order to block the wage hike before that time, some opponents are discussing seeking a preliminary injunction from a judge, requesting that the measure not take effect until the public has a chance to vote on it.
But one thing the judge would likely take into account is the ballot referendum's chance for success.
A poll released this week by the Center on Policy Initiatives, one of the chief proponents of the measure, show two-thirds of San Diegans approve of the wage hike and close to 60 percent would vote against a referendum seeking to overturn it.
A poll of small businesses throughout the state conducted earlier this year by California Bank & Trust showed that 72 percent of small business owners feel an increase in the minimum wage would have a neutral or positive effect on their business. Some businesses say they like a higher minimum wage because it gives more spending money to potential consumers.
Those numbers don't surprise Jason Cabel Roe, managing partner of Revolvis, a political consulting firm that has been working with the opponents of the measure.
"The vast majority of people feel this measure won't affect them at all," he said. "One part of our campaign has to be to educate people about the impact — and how this can drive goods and services up for everybody."
Faulconer said he was vetoing the measure because he felt it would put San Diego at a competitive disadvantage against neighboring cities.
"This ordinance weakens San Diego’s ability to create and retain jobs by putting heavier burdens on small businesses compared to nearby cities, permanently tipping the scales to the disadvantage of San Diegans seeking employment," he said.
Gloria — who had originally called for a $13.09 minimum wage, reflecting what it would have been if it had been adjusted for inflation since 1968 — called the mayor’s action “disappointing,” considering the large number of San Diegans who are at the minimum level.
"When 38 percent of San Diego workers don't earn enough to make ends meet, something must be done," he said.
Surveys of cities and counties that have already raised their minimum wages — such as San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Santa Fe and the suburban Maryland counties surrounding Washington, D.C. — suggest that while some individual businesses may be hurt by a minimum wage hike, others thrive.
A report this week by The Santa Fe New Mexican, reviewing the impact of hiking the local minimum to $10.66 (the nation's second-highest minimum) over the past 10 years, has had no noticeable impact on local jobless rates, business revenues, business creation or on the rate of employment growth in restaurants and hotels, where most minimum wage workers are employed.
Instead of competing with Santa Fe by offering lower wages, the rest of Santa Fe County this year decided to match its $10.66 minimum.
“One of the lessons learned is that the sky didn’t fall,” Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales told the newspaper. “The doom and gloom that was predicted never came to be."
Longtime Santa Fe restarauteur Al Lucero, who had opposed raising the minimum wage so high, agreed that the sky did not fall, because "this is America... (and) we have the wherewithal to live with it. But it certainly made it tough on a lot of entrepreneurs and small business operators. They survived, (although) some didn’t."
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