It has been a very long summer for businesses in the City of Los Angeles. First, the City Council took a timid approach to promised reform of the gross receipts tax. Next, they passed a resolution (with no discussion at Council) calling for a split roll property tax. Then, they approved the second highest minimum wage in the nation for hotels without regarding the economic studies they had commissioned. And finally, they moved forward on a plan to raise the minimum wage across the board by 47 percent over a three-year period.
Last week, we finally received some good news, when Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Bob Blumenfield introduced a motion asking for an economic analysis of the unintended consequences of increasing the minimum wage, especially as it relates to small businesses and nonprofits.
The result of this motion is that the process for a decision would slow down, and allow the debate to take place that is needed on an action that will impact thousands of businesses. Instead of taking action in January, if this motion is passed, we should see a decision in the spring. Of course, this is all dependent on approval of the motion by the full City Council.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is on record in support of an increase if it is done in a way that minimizes its impact on small businesses. Increases need to be smaller and spread over a lengthier period of time. The City needs to lobby the State to allow tipped wage earners to be excluded from the increase. And the City needs to seriously reform or replace the gross receipts tax in a way that will allow Los Angeles to compete with other L.A. County cities for business.
The Berkeley study commissioned by the Mayor is seriously flawed and underestimates the negative impact of the proposed increase on jobs and businesses. There has never been an increase in the minimum wage of this magnitude over this short period of time. It does not allow businesses the time to adjust to the increase.
We have just completed a study of our own members that reveals that 53 percent believe their businesses would be adversely impacted. If it is enacted as proposed, 27 percent say that they would have to lay off employees and another 39 percent say that they would have to reduce some employees hours.
Studying the unintended consequences of the increase makes sense. Are the benefits of the proposed increase greater than the negatives for those who will lose jobs or have their work hours reduced? What about the $1.8-billion sucked out of the pockets of businesses? Are the negatives of their reduced spending being taken into consideration?
A big thanks to our own Councilman Mitch O’Farrell for making the motion to put the brakes on this increase along with Councilman Bob Blumenfield and seconders Paul Krekorian, Nury Martinez, and Felipe Fuentes. Hopefully, other Council members will take the responsible position and also support the motion. There is no need for a headlong rush to approve an increase. Let the Council take the time to listen to the businesses that will be impacted and to craft an increase that not only helps those on the lowest economic level, but which does the least harm to business.
Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 22 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.