City-County Council passes $13 minimum wage proposal

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The City-County Council approved a plan Monday night to increase the minimum wage for some city workers to $13 per hour.

Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration said Indianapolis could afford to fund the pay hike because it rolled out a 2018 city budget earlier Monday that calls for taking in more money than it spends.

The proposal, which council members are calling a "living wage," would apply to about 365 full-time, non-union city and county employees. It is expected to cost between $450,000 and $500,000 annually to raise their wages. Indianapolis has about 6,000 city workers, most of whom are paid according to union contracts.

“I would say it’s about damn time,” Democrat Jared Evans said before the council voted 22-2 to approve the plan, which will take effect Jan. 1.

Hogsett had been hesitant to fund a wage raise until the city’s structural deficit was eliminated in the next budget. City Controller Fady Qaddoura said Monday that “we think we can absorb the fiscal impact” of Lewis’ proposal.

That is because the city typically over-budgets for salaries, since it assumes the city is fully staffed 365 days per year. That rarely happens because of normal attrition.

Council President Maggie Lewis thanked members for "staying committed to this proposal" since she first announced her goal to increase the wage in May.

The proposal would allow employees to opt out of the $13 per hour minimum wage if it negatively affected their ability to access federal benefits.

“The city has the funds to enable this, and it’s important we lead by example as we request other entities that do business with us… to do the same,” said Democrat Vop Osili. “We should not have poverty wages in our own house, and it is time we make the difference, put our foot down and do what we know is the right thing.”

Democrat Joe Simpson and Republican Jason Holliday voted against the proposal.

Councilman Steven Clay said he was concerned about the future sustainability of the proposal and about how agencies’ budgets would be affected, but he ultimately voted for it.

“The funding is at the expense of agencies that have surplus dollars within their agency,” Clay said. “I’m extremely concerned about struggling city agencies that are already doing the best they can.”

However, Vice President Zach Adamson said "budgets that are balanced on the back of the poor are immoral budgets."

Republican Janice McHenry and a few others said they were also concerned that relatively low-paid supervisors would be making the same amount or barely more than those they were supervising.

“I certainly hope that all the departments will also look at the employees who are making $13, $14, $15 [per hour],” McHenry said. “Those people deserve a wage [increase] just as much as everyone else.”

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