Montana Debates Tax to Achieve Living Wage
By George Anderson
Critics of large national and regional retailers have argued that states ultimately pick up the cost for caring for many of the employees of these companies through public assistance programs because they fail to pay a living wage and provide inadequate and/or costly health insurance.
In Montana, a state Senate committee heard from supporters and opponents of a bill proposed by Sen. Ken Toole (D – Helena) that would tax companies with a workforce consisting primarily of full-timers that failed to compensate entry-level workers with the equivalent of $22,000 a year including pay and benefits.
The proposed legislation (Senate Bill 272), reports the Helena Independent Record, “would charge a gross receipts tax of 1 percent of a store’s annual gross receipts of $20 million to $30 million, 1.5 percent on gross receipts from $30 million to $40 million and 2 percent on gross receipts exceeding $40 million. The bill is projected to raise about $16 million a year for the state.”
For his part, Sen. Toole said he hopes that no company in the state pays the tax, preferring to adequately compensate employees themselves.
Businesses were in clear opposition to the proposal. Even Costco, which according to regional vice president John McKay, pays its average full-time workers over $60,000 in pay and benefits, and 92 percent of its part-timers $39,000 in combined wages and benefits, voiced objection to 272, saying it unfairly taxed businesses with high sales volumes.
Moderator’s Comment: Do you believe companies are morally obligated to pay a living wage to full-time employees?
Do you agree with the Senate Bill 272 in Montana and other proposals to legislate a living wage? –
George Anderson – Moderator