Henry Saenz is technically retired but has been working part-time for the city of Austin as a facility service representative at the Austin Convention Center since 2006. In that time, his hourly pay has gone from $9 an hour to $15 an hour.
Saenz lives with his 98-year-old mother and doesn’t have to pay rent, which is how he affords to stay in the city, he said. When his mother dies and his family sells the house, he’ll have to move, he said.
“I hate to leave this town, but I just can't afford to live here,” Saenz said. “I can imagine how hard it is for someone who doesn't have the advantages that I've experienced, whose money has to go to rent.”
In his role with Central Texas Interfaith, a local advocacy group, Saenz has been among those calling on the city to pay all its employees at least $22 per hour.
[Photo Credit: Kamryn Wooten]
Austin Considers Proposal for a $22 Minimum Wage for All City Employees, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
NXP Semiconductors, which is based in the Netherlands and has two fabrication plants in Austin, is seeking tax breaks from the Austin Independent School District under the state's Chapter 313 incentive program for proposed expansion. An initial presentation to the district's board Tuesday night didn't specify the amount, but previous incentives agreements from Texas school districts for similar Chapter 313 deals have been for tens of millions of dollars.
The Chapter 313 incentives program — which is named after a portion of the tax code — has been controversial. It's set to expire at the end of this year because state lawmakers declined to renew it during last year's legislative session, although deals struck before then won't be affected....
Under the Chapter 313 program, school districts are reimbursed by the state for the corporate tax breaks they agree to provide. That attribute has made Chapter 313 controversial among critics who say school districts have no reason not to grant them, and that the program siphons money from taxpayers statewide as handouts to corporations.
“There's no such thing as free money," said Doug Greco, lead organizer with Central Texas Interfaith, a group that opposes all Chapter 313 deals and has worked to help end the program.
“It's money that is being drained out of the state budget that could be going to schools," Greco said. "When you add these (deals) up, it's just a drain on the system that we can't sustain. Let's stop the gold rush here."
[Photo Credit: Mark Matson, Austin American Statesman]
Chipmaker NXP Considers Austin for $2.6 Billion Expansion, Up to 800 New Jobs, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Says David Guarino of All Saints Episcopal Church, “Austin Interfaith recognizes Mayor Steve Adler, City Manager Spencer Cronk and the members of the City Council for hearing and acting on our concerns.”
“Austin Interfaith is especially appreciative of Council Members Greg Casar and Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria for co-sponsoring the amendment that guaranteed living wage requirements for firms receiving incentives.” Mayor Adler and Councilmembers Flanagan, Kitchen and Pool spoke in favor living wages as a key community value for Austin. Mayor ProTem Kathie Tovo and Council Member Pool thanked community leaders for working with the council and city staff on the new policy.
Austin Interfaith, an organization of 37 local congregations, schools, nonprofits and labor organizations, worked hard to ensure that the City Council required living wages for employees of firms receiving future tax incentives.
“Tonight, the Austin City Council has set a national standard for urban economic incentive programs by recognizing that people deserve the dignity of a living wage from employers who receive economic incentives,” Guarino.
Austin Interfaith has worked years to encourage the city toward the $15 an hour living wage standard for city-subsidized companies.
Said Reverend Sandy Jones from Mount Olive Baptist Church, “Austin Interfaith also applauds City Manager Cronk for recommending a $15 an hour living wage floor for city employees and contractors as part of the city’s budget process.”
Support Your Local and Small Businesses, Austin Chronicle