Councilmember Silverman Introduces Bill to Expand Living Wage Benefits to More District Residents

On Tuesday, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced the Living Wages for Publicly Supported Jobs Amendment Act of 2016, legislation that requires recipients of government tax benefits to pay living wages on their contracted projects. Co-introduced by Councilmembers Allen, Cheh, May, McDuffie, and Nadeau, the bill seeks to expand the benefits of the living wage law to many District workers currently excluded by a tax benefit loophole.

“D.C. tax dollars should not support poverty wage jobs—jobs that do not allow D.C. residents to live and support families in our city,” said Silverman on the need for more comprehensive legislation.

Under current District law, only recipients of District contracts, grants, loans, or tax increment financing are required to pay a living wage. The living wage is currently calculated to be $13.84 per hour, or for a 40-hour week, $28,787 per year.

The introduced legislation expands the definition of government assistance to include any tax exemption, abatement, credit, or similar tax reduction given directly to a specific recipient or group of recipients. Broad tax benefits are excluded. The expanded definition includes tax benefits that are fundamentally no different than grants or loans but are not covered by the current living wage law. The current loophole exempts almost $46 million in annual targeted tax abatements, exemptions, and credits from the living wage requirements.

In 2006, the Council overwhelmingly passed the original Living Wage Act requiring a living wage for contractors and government assistance recipients. “This legislation strengthens that original bill by ensuring that, when tax dollars support a project, they create jobs with wages that can allow workers to live in the District,” said Silverman.

The proposed changes are narrowly targeted to only affect new abatements and exemptions, not any benefits previously granted by the Council. The introduced legislation also limits which employees are covered to only those working on the property receiving the abatement. 

“By closing the tax benefits loophole, we extend the benefits of a living wage to many more District residents and significantly strengthen the living wage law,” said Silverman.

The legislation was referred to the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs.