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Living wage not part of city bus contract
On a night when city commissioners began to talk about the future of the city’s living wage ordinance, they also took some less noticeable action on the subject. The city approved a five year contract with MV Transportation to continue running the city’s public transit system. One of the many provisions in that contract spells out what the starting salary must be for bus drivers: $9.75 an hour. That wage is far less than the $11 per hour that the city currently has set as the living wage that companies who have received tax abatements must pay to all their employees. Technically, MV Transportation is not required to pay a living wage under the city’s ordinance. Only companies that have received a property tax abatement since 2003 are required to pay the wage. But as commissioners have pointed out previously, the concept behind the living wage is that if government is going to subsidize a business, it should be required to pay the wage. Saying that MV Transportation is subsidized by the city wouldn’t be accurate either. It would be more accurate to say MV owes much of its existence in Lawrence to government funding. Until it got a contract to run the Kansas University bus system earlier this year, MV’s only real source of revenue in Lawrence came from monthly checks from the city. Commissioner Boog Highberger last year expressed a desire to have the new contract include a living wage requirement. But over the course of the next year, that idea never gained much traction with commissioners, or with KU leaders who also were negotiating a contract with the city. Requiring the company to pay a living wage in all likelihood would have resulted in higher payments the city would have had to make to MV. Commissioners never said whether that was the reason the idea wasn’t pursued more. What do you think? Should businesses who are subject to paying the wage be upset, or are city leaders doing the right thing by protecting taxpayer dollars?