By Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) - The only city in Orange County, California, to have a living wage ordinance has taken steps to repeal it, at a time when other cities around the nation are moving to adopt minimum wage laws.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 4-1 to get rid of a 2007 law that requires companies with city contracts worth $100,000 or more each year to pay workers at least as much as the lowest-paid city worker earns - currently $10.82 per hour.

The wage requirement increases to $13.43 an hour for companies that don’t supply health and other benefits similar to those earned by city employees.

Either wage is well above the state’s required minimum wage of $9 per hour.

The ordinance also requires the companies to pay the city-specified wage to all employees who conduct a majority of their work in Orange County.

Councilwoman Christine Shea led the repeal effort, arguing that companies were inflating costs of Irvine contracts to cover the wages.

“That is a burden on our taxpayers,” Shea said.

The council must finalize the repeal with a second vote.

Irvine’s ordinance calls for “an hourly wage that is sufficient to live with dignity and to achieve economic self-sufficiency.” But in the future, the city of about 240,000 people will encourage contractors to voluntarily pay a “fair and living wage” to workers, according to the City Council resolution.

The living wage didn’t actually help keep workers out of poverty, Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway argued.

“Instead of trying to impose a wage, a feel-good wage, we should all be seeking ways to have our economy grow,” he said.

Councilwoman Beth Krom, who was mayor when the ordinance passed, cast the lone vote against repeal.

“I ask myself whether I’m even living in the same city that I’ve been living in for the last 30 years,” she said. “We’re a city of nice people. We’re not a city of people who are looking for ways to take a pound of flesh from the people who can least afford to give it up.”

The repeal comes at a time when other cities are considering adopting minimum wage laws.

The Los Angeles City Council voted last week to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Seattle and San Francisco recently passed laws that raise the wage to $15 an hour over several years.

Chicago passed one last year that plateaus at $13.

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