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Monday, Jul 22, 2024

State Action on Wages Could Affect S.D. Vote

Gov. Jerry Brown’s support last month of a plan to bring California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour is complicating the campaign over a June ballot measure that would boost San Diego’s minimum wage to $11.50.

Brown, a Democrat, said he had reached an agreement with Democrat lawmakers and labor unions about a week after labor groups put a $15 minimum wage proposal on the November ballot. Brown’s plan would reach that cap one year slower than the ballot proposal, by 2022 for most businesses.

Sean Karafin

The San Diego measure was initially passed by the City Council in 2014 over Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s veto, but the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and other business groups gathered enough signatures to force the issue onto the June 7 primary ballot.

Even if the statewide measure is successful, San Diego’s initiative would still

Todd Gloria

have an impact. It allows workers to earn up to five days of sick leave per year, two more than the state minimum, and would hike the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour more than a year before the state bill.

If passed, San Diego’s wage floor would immediately jump from $10 an hour to $10.50 and then hit $11.50 on Jan. 1. The minimum wage would then be indexed to inflation starting in 2019. The state bill would increase the minimum wage to $10.50 on Jan. 1, then $11 by 2018, with annual $1 increases until 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 workers would have an additional year to comply. State indexing would occur after that.

“It’s always going to be relevant, regardless if the state measure passes,” said Sean Karafin, the regional chamber’s executive director for policy and economic research. “It’s still going to be a substantial cost for many businesses.”

The Economic Effects

Jason Roe

Research on the effects of minimum wage has been mixed, with some claiming wage hikes result in lower employment while others showed employment impacts were small or outweighed by other factors, including higher consumer spending or lower turnover. A study backed by the chamber and the San Diego Taxpayers Association said the San Diego increases would cause local businesses to reduce jobs or increase prices.

Karafin said last month that he was unsure whether enough money could be raised to defeat the June initiative, in part due to polling showing a majority of San Diego voters support the higher minimum wage. But the chamber said it was still going to fight the measure.

“Everything going on in Sacramento and in the presidential primaries impacts our strategy locally, but we’ll be opposing the city minimum wage hike in June,” Chief Operating Officer Aimee Faucett said.

Act Locally

City Councilman Todd Gloria, a Democrat, proposed the San Diego wage increase and said he too was committed to the June campaign, even as the state plan promises to lift wage significantly higher.

“Today’s announcement does not change our approach on Proposition I,” Gloria wrote in an email, referring to the wage hike. “We remain committed to ensuring this measure passes in June.”

But the San Diego Small Business Coalition, which worked to defeat the local increases, said it may be difficult to persuade voters that San Diego’s faster increases are worse for businesses. Instead, according to executive director Jason Roe, the coalition may benefit if voters believe the San Diego measure was made obsolete by the statewide increases.

“This improves the chances of defeating the local initiative,” Roe said. “A lot of people that don’t pay attention to the details might think, ‘Why do we need to deal with the local one?’ I don’t think the electorate will pay attention to those finer points.”


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