New York Times
Ms. Quinn’s reluctance to express an opinion on the so-called living wage bill at a news conference comes at a time when many of her positions are being closely watched because she is a prospective candidate for mayor in 2013. She also kept her distance from the Occupy Wall Street protests, even as some on the Council joined union members in a march on Wednesday. The speaker said that she felt sympathy with Americans who were worried about the economy, but that she was not sure what the protesters’ agenda was and that she would not be visiting them.
Ms. Quinn, a Democrat, has a cooperative relationship with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an independent, and is widely viewed as his preferred successor. She recently quashed a measure opposed by Mr. Bloomberg that would have required mayors to disclose to the public when they were traveling far from the city. But on Wednesday, she shepherded a measure through the Council that would require greater scrutiny when the city outsourced contracts; Mr. Bloomberg opposes the bill, and he is expected to veto it.
On the living wage measure, Ms. Quinn said she had not yet seen proposed revisions by advocates for the bill, who have rewritten their proposal in response to concerns from the business community.
Although the advocates have described the changes they were making publicly and in a memorandum to Ms. Quinn’s staff, she said she would not be ready to respond until they filed a revised bill.
“Up until there are actually written amendments for me to read and review, I cannot tell you what I think,” she said, her voice rising in response to repeated questions about the issue. “Because my job as speaker is to pass or not pass legislation. My job as speaker is to opine on legislation. There is no legislation. There are no amendments.”
The original living wage legislation — introduced last year by two council members from the Bronx, G. Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma — would have required that employees working on city-subsidized projects be paid at least $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 an hour without benefits. The state minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
The measure had the support of a majority of the Council, along with that of a coalition of labor leaders, antipoverty advocates and clergy members. But Mr. Bloomberg and business leaders opposed the bill, arguing that it would cost the city jobs, and Ms. Quinn never brought it to a vote.
In an effort to resurrect the measure, its supporters said this week that they would revise it to exclude manufacturing firms and small businesses from the wage requirements.
Mr. Bloomberg is, however, still opposed.
“We’ve got to attract jobs in this city, and the marketplace is going to set the compensation,” he said Wednesday. “The last time people tried to set rates, basically, was in the Soviet Union, and that didn’t work out very well. I don’t think we want to go in that direction.”
On Wednesday, the city’s Economic Development Corporation released a study of the living wage proposal, declaring that in cities where similar measures had been adopted, employment among low-skilled workers fell by about 2.2 percent as a result. Based on that finding, the study predicted that the bill being considered by the Council would result in the loss of 6,000 to 13,000 low-skilled jobs.
“This study shows clearly that while wage mandates may raise income for a few, they also result in significant job losses and reduced private investment for many,” said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
But supporters of the measure criticized the study.
“This million-dollar report is so flawed it’s not worth the bandwidth for a download,” John C. Liu, the city comptroller, a Democrat who is also expected to run for mayor in 2013, said in a statement, adding that the “claim of job losses is rhetoric at its worst.”