Living Wages in Howard County
Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, June 21, 2007
Who is against providing someone a living wage raise their hand. I don’t think we would have any takers. I have some questions about Calvin Ball’s proposed legislation to help families afford to live in Howard County. First it is the wrong approach and akin to putting the cart before the horse.
From the Howard County Times
Howard County Council Chairman Calvin Ball will file legislation this week to require many county contractors to pay a “living wage” to their employees that would be the highest of any jurisdiction in Maryland.
The bill would require contractors who do business with the county government to pay employees an hourly wage that would allow them, in a 40-hour week, to make 125 percent of the federal poverty level guideline for a family of four. This year, that would amount to about $12.41 per hour, said Ball, a Columbia Democrat.
From the Baltimore Examiner
Howard County Council Chairman Calvin Ball is taking steps to require county contractors to pay its workers a sufficient minimum wage — a move he calls “the right to do.”
“We should set a higher standard,” said Ball, D-District 2.
He plans to file legislation this week that would require contractors to pay employees at least 125 percent of the federal poverty line, which is about $12.41 an hour.
Granted that Calvin Ball probably had a lot more to say to the reporter (Sara Michael) than what is printed in the Examiner I am troubled by this statement.
Ball said he wasn’t aware of “many complaints” about contractor wages, but “part of our responsibility as government is to do the right thing, whether it’s 200 or 2,000 people who have indicated concern.”
Ball said the legislation would allow the county to better collect information about contractors and workers.
“There weren’t a lot of numbers I could look at and see what is going to be the exact impact,” he said.
Isn’t that the logic he used against the senior property tax cut?
More data should be found on the tax cut’s long-term impact, said Council Member Calvin Ball, D-District 2, at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Council Member Kenneth Ulman, D-District 4, said he was determined to pass the bill by the end of the month.
He said he would work with the commission to make any changes, and the three-week delay would not affect seniors’ ability to take advantage of a break next tax cycle.
I am sure the arguement will be that he still voted in favor of the tax cut in its original form, but that really isn’t the point here. He wanted more data – but here he doesn’t apply the same standard (according to the articles).
As to whether Howard County needs this legislation when the General Assembly already passed a living wage bill this year is another question all together. I don’t think this is going to make Howard County a more affordable place to live and help people buy a home here. Based on full-time employment this would pay a person $25,812.80 per year less taxes.
The legislation comes amid debate on how to tackle what advocates call an affordable housing “crisis.” The median cost of a single-family detached house in Howard in 2005 was $505,128, according to the county.
Howard County imports it’s work force and I am talking about non-governmental employers. Is this really going to attract them to live in Howard County or just work here? That means the increased tax revnues are only going to another jurisdiction.
There are better options to making Howard County a more affordable place to live and that starts with housing. Increase someone’s pay to $25,800 so they can buy what? So they can buy a $505,000 house? If a person at this income level is willing to take on an aggressive mortgage they could afford an $80,000 house. If they have two incomes then they could afford a $160,000 house. I am not including other household expenses in that equation either so it is likely the target audience would not be able to afford a house in those price ranges either. How many houses in that price range exist in Howard County? A search at realtor.com for Columbia showed 11 houses in that price range. An expanded search for all of Howard County showed 13 properties. We have demand but no supply.
Fix the supply problem first. Put the horse in front of the cart.
In any event, the new wage will be paid for by Howard County Government (you and me). It is a government subsidy and a wealth redistribution program and I say that in part based upon the exclusions proposed in the legislation
Contractors with four or fewer employees, nonprofit organizations and public utility contractors under cooperative agreements with another government or organization would be exempt from the law.
Are nonprofits special? Does this mean that a public utility contractor doing business with the State only has to pay the State rate of $11.30 per hour? Why aren’t they as valuable of a work force?
Yes, it will increase the cost of Government – but we don’t have the data to know how much. The next quote I would like to read from Chairman Ball would be this:
More data should be found on the wage increases’ long-term impact on County budgets and housing affordability, said Council Member Calvin Ball, D-District 2, at Tuesday’s council meeting.