While the June 21 editorial " `Living Wage' Is a Killer" raises valid concerns regarding the impact of the Montgomery County living wage legislation, the analysis is too one-sided.

Living-wage ordinances have been adopted to date in 35 localities nationwide to ensure that workers paid through publicly supported funds earn wages above the poverty level. Therefore, the rationale for the "Montgomery campaign" is that private firms benefiting from more than $130 million of public subsidies ought to pay a wage that keeps their employees off public assistance. (A worker supporting a family of four earning less than the proposed $10.41 per hour qualifies for food stamps.) The plan, as such, will not affect most businesses in Montgomery County, which operate without public subsidies.

Baltimore has had a living wage in place since 1994 with no negative effects on the business climate and significant benefits to workers covered by the ordinance. Granted, Baltimore's living wage, at $7.70 per hour, is lower than the one set by the Montgomery campaign, but it's much cheaper to live in Baltimore than in Montgomery County.

The Silver Spring redevelopment team is threatening to pack up and go elsewhere if it can't have its tax breaks with no strings attached. Its refusal to negotiate reveals an unwillingness even to consider giving something back to the community. If the proposal's opponents believe they have convincing evidence that the living-wage campaign in Montgomery County is set too high, they should stop threatening to leave and start negotiating in good faith.




The writers are, respectively, an economist and a policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.