PROP 1 COSTS REVEALED – AND THEY HIT SEATAC HARD
By Terry Anderson and Daryl Tapio
Proposition 1 will cost SeaTac dearly and we urge voters to reject it.
While voters know that Prop 1 requires selected employers to increase the minimum wage by 63%, to $15 an hour, it puts some heavy burdens on our city government, too. The ordinance says:
• The City SHALL adopt auditing procedures sufficient to monitor and ensure compliance by designated employers
• Employers SHALL retain records of hours worked, paid sick and safe leave time taken, wages and benefits provided to each employee for at least two years and SHALL allow the City Manager access to such records to investigate potential violations and to monitor compliance
• The City is AUTHORIZED to investigate complaints that any provision has been violated
• The City is AUTHORIZED to initiate legal or other action to remedy any violation, although the City Attorney is not “obligated to expend any funds or resources in pursuit of a remedy.”
No city in America, much less one as small as SeaTac, has such a burdensome and complex law dictating what private employers must do. What’s more, requiring the city to audit and referee this private sector “labor agreement” virtually ensures higher taxes.
A new study, by Cardno, an international consulting firm, compared Prop 1 to other local minimum wage laws. They said: “…No other living wage ordinance is as complex as that proposed for SeaTac,” “…or require(s) as much responsibility.”
Cardno estimates SeaTac would require four to six full-time Legal Department employees to write the regulations and begin enforcement, but expects that number would eventually stabilize around 2.5 permanent employees. The costs over the first five years? From nearly $2.5 million to more than $3.4 million, depending on just how contentious implementation becomes.
The unions will pretend that city costs are optional, but we think the meaning of SHALL is pretty clear. They’ll also say employees could sue in county court, but wait: if you were a minimum wage worker, you could either pay a lawyer to take your case to court or complain to the City for free, which would you do? That’s a no-brainer.
What will SeaTac have to do to absorb roughly $3 million in new costs over the next five years? That could pay for park maintenance, community center operating hours, and police programs. Either we give up those kinds of things, or we raise taxes.
If Prop 1 showered SeaTac with other benefits, you might still think those costs were worth it. But consider these stark realities:
• 90% of the workers slated for the big pay boost under Prop 1 don’t live in SeaTac. They spend their paychecks close to home – the way we all do.
• If employers have to pay $15 an hour for entry level work, they will hire college graduates. SeaTac’s teenagers, immigrants, and refugees trying to get their first jobs will have to look elsewhere.
• Small businesses throughout SeaTac will have to pay higher wages to compete for employees, but we consumers will have to pay higher prices or our small businesses will suffer, fail, or move.
• SeaTac’s growth in the transportation and hospitality sectors will slow, as will business tax revenues. Our city’s budget will get squeezed on both sides – higher costs AND lower revenues.
Quite simply, the unintended consequences of Prop 1 leads to a city none of us want. Our city would be less affordable, less of a community, with less opportunity for our own people. Many minimum wage workers have real challenges, but Prop 1 is the wrong answer in the wrong place.
Please vote no, for SeaTac’s sake.
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Terry Jarvis Anderson is one of the founders of the City of SeaTac, the City’s longest serving City Council member, and a lifelong area resident. Daryl Tapio is chair of the City of SeaTac Planning Commission, a local business owner, and SeaTac resident.