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County will not pay for flawed study

Montgomery County won’t be paying the bill on the faulty study it commissioned on the minimum wage legislation.

After an executive from PFM Consulting admitted his firm made a mathematical error in a County-commissioned study which altered the estimated results of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, County Executive Ike Leggett decided not to pay him for the costs.

“This was not well done and not worthy of the work that they do,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-1).

The County was originally supposed to pay $149,600 for the study, but since the revelation of the error that will no longer be the case. The County hired the Philadelphia-based PFM Consulting after lengthy debate on the Council on the possible repercussions of raising the minimum wage.

After Leggett vetoed a bill that would have increased the County’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020, the Council voted to approve funds for a study to look into how a minimum wage increase would affect the County.

In August, PFM Consulting published the results of its study, claiming the County would lose 47,000 jobs if it were to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, but after review, an executive from PFM admitted that there was a mathematical error that negated the results of the study.

“It was a total piece of crap. – it really was,” said Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large) and lead sponsor of the bill to increase the County’s minimum wage.

Leggett maintained while the study was flawed, it was still better than no study, saying even if half the originally flawed prognostication were true it would be dire for the County.

“Any study, even if flawed, is better than no study,” said Leggett about the study in August.

The study delayed the minimum wage debate for the Council, which voted 5-4 in January to increase it to $15 per hour by 2020, only for Leggett to veto it.

In early October the Council Health and Human Services Committee voted for amendments that would delay the implementation of the minimum wage increase until 2022 and 2024 for small businesses. Leggett requested the Council add the amendments as way to compromise on the bill, but the full Council would have to approve the amendments before they would officially become part of the bill.

Elrich said he will not vote in favor of the amendments the HHS committee added.

“2022 and 2024 are ridiculous,” Elrich said. “It is so far in the future that it seriously erodes the value of 15 dollars, you might as well be talking about 16 dollars or 17 dollars if you’re going to push the bill back this far.”

For the minimum wage bill to pass, either Leggett would need to refrain from using his veto power or the Council would need six votes to override his veto. Elrich said he is currently lobbying other Council members and the County Executive in hopes of forming a compromise to get the additional vote to pass his bill.

Along with Elrich, Council members Hans Riemer (D-at large), George Leventhal (D-at large), Nancy Navarro (D-4) and Tom Hucker (D-5) voted in favor of increasing the County’s minimum wage, while Council members Berliner, Nancy Floreen (D-at large), Sidney Katz (D-3) and Craig Rice (D-4) voted against it.

“I’m engaged in some really earnest discussions about how to do this, and, you know, I got four people who are supporting the bill who have to be comfortable with alternatives,” Elrich said. I want, you know, the advocates who wanted the bill in its original form to be comfortable with alternatives. I think everybody’s got to get comfortable with alternatives.” 

@neal_earley

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