After weeks of complaints by small businesses that an increase in the minimum wage to $13.25 an hour would endanger their businesses, a Los Angeles City Council committee voted Tuesday to hire an outside economic firm to study its potential effect.
The decision was the result of a motion introduced by Councilmen Mitch O'Farrell and Bob Blumenfield, who sought to address the concerns of the business community through an economic impact report.
After more than an hour of public comment on both sides, the motion for the study passed the city's Economic Development Committee unanimously. The minimum wage proposal will remain in committee until the study is completed.
"We know this is needed. We know we have to lift our workers out of poverty. At the same time, there are some issues that we should at least look at more carefully," said Councilman Paul Koretz, who serves on the Economic Development Committee.
Council members want to know how the local economy will be affected and what kind of job loss may occur as a result of the increase in wages.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he wanted the increase to go into effect by next spring when he announced it on Labor Day.
"We look forward to listening and discussing with the council members," mayoral spokesman Jeff Millman said. He wouldn't say whether the two month delay would stop the measure from passing on the mayor's timeline.
The city administrative office is expected to select a firm to complete the study in the next 30 days, with a final report due back by Feb. 1, 2015.
"I remember working in El Paso, Texas for $1.60 an hour in the old days, looking at every penny, every dollar to be able to survive, to put food on the table, to pay the rent," said Carlos Montes, president of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council told the committee. "Working class families in Boyle Heights and throughout L.A are barely surviving on minimum wage."
Ruben Gonzalez, vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commercesaid the study is important "so we have real data and we're making decisions not based on ideology but on the facts before us." His group opposes the increase.
The study will consider the mayor's proposal and a second proposal to increase wages to $15.25 an hour by 2019. It will also consider exemptions for non-profit organizations and some small businesses.