Living Wage Debate in Lawrence
An evaluation of economic development incentives in Lawrence, Kansas has churned up vigorous public debate about living wage.
Since 2003, businesses in Lawrence that receive a tax abatement, such as TIF financing, are required to pay a living wage. The living wage rate is calculated as 30% above the poverty line for a family of four. City commissioners are weighing in with their thoughts:
"Commissioner Boog Highberger said he thinks companies applying for TIFs, TDDs and other new types of public incentives should be required to pay their employees a living wage, which means salaries will be at a level to provide a family of four with income that is at least 30 percent above the poverty level.
“The rationale when we passed this is that we didn’t think it was good public policy to subsidize jobs that pay less than a living wage,” Highberger said. “I think that still makes sense for these new incentives.”
But [Commissioner] Chestnut said he wants to gather recent research to present to commissioners that call the concept into question. He said some cities have found that the living wage ordinances have cost their communities jobs and have done little to help low-income workers.
“I think some communities are finding that it is an expensive way to bring wages up,” Chestnut said."
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In a policy survey conducted this fall, less than 20% of respondents ranked Living Wage as one of their chamber's top policy concerns for the coming year.