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Mercury wrong on sales tax

Geri Simon

By A Contributor

The half-cent sales tax is up for renewal for another 10 years on this fall’s ballot. The county portion would go to roads and bridges. The city portion would be for economic development, with 65 percent for job creation and/or infrastructure and 35 percent for debt reduction. 

The Manhattan Living Wage Coalition does not support extending the half-cent sales tax because the job creation part of the tax still allows the city to keep creating low-wage jobs.

The Mercury in its Sept 27 editorial called our insistence on a guaranteed wage floor for economic development “misguided.” It’s the Mercury’s contention that “wage levels should be market driven” that is wrong. Because once we start giving tax dollars to private businesses, we are directly intervening in the market. Such intervention changes the rules. What the market would do on its own is much less meaningful, if not beside the point.

There ought to be some significant expectations tied to government financial intervention on a business’s behalf and the advantage it then gets over other city businesses. Why shouldn’t it be that we expect every job created to pay a living wage? That’s a better outcome for our residents than telling them getting a low-wage job “isn’t bad money” because a single person or young couples (each working a low-wage job) can get by on it.

Let’s remember that’s not the kind of job the half-cent sales tax was supposed to help create. What we were promised with the sales tax the first time around were “quality jobs with corresponding wages and benefits.” That’s not what we got. Quality will never describe a job that pays below $12 an hour.

We don’t need more under-$12-an-hour jobs in Manhattan. There are plenty of them out there created without economic development incentives. We need higher paying jobs that will keep people living as well as working and paying taxes in Manhattan. 

Why are we called misguided when we have the gumption to point that out?

Geri Simon, 1728 Little Kitten Ave., is coordinator of the Manhat-tan Living Wage Coalition.

Editor’s note: Ms. Simon’s initial response to the Mercury’s Sept. 27 editorial included broader discussion of the half-cent sales tax issue. Had it run here, it would have been subject to the 15-cents-per word fee because it advocated one side of a ballot issue. Residents can read her entire response at Manhattan Living Wage Coalition/Facebook.


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