Who is more progressive? Tampa City Council explores St. Pete’s living wage ordinance

Published January 25
Updated February 1

TAMPA — Who will be the most progressive city in the bay area?

Council member Guido Maniscalco thinks Tampa needs to seize the mantle from what he sees as the current frontrunner: St. Petersburg.

Case in point: St. Petersburg's newly-minted living wage ordinance.

The Sunshine City's ordinance, which took effect Jan.1., requires contractors with more than 25 employees and city contracts worth at least $500,000 to pay their workers at least $12 an hour, rising to $14 an hour in two years. The hourly wages include the cost of health insurance.

"I want Tampa to be the most progressive city. St. Pete has us beat on a few things lately," Maniscalco said after Thursday's council meeting. "The momentum is here. The time is now."

Maniscalco's colleagues took a more cautious approach.

Tampa, after all, is substantially larger than St. Petersburg, with huge construction and development projects in the pipeline, said council member Mike Suarez.

City Council member Harry Cohen wondered about the possibility of litigation. Miami Beach had faced some legal action for a similar measure, said City Attorney Salvatore Territo.

So far, no legal action has been initiated against St. Petersburg's ordinance, said St. Petersburg City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch.

The council asked Territo to consult with the city's purchasing and finance officials to determine how much of a financial impact such an ordinance might have.  In St. Petersburg, the living wage measure is estimated to cost the city about $500,000 this year.

The council voted unanimously to hear a staff report detailing the impact and litigation risks at its March 15 meeting.

At some point, Suarez said, the council will need to gauge the support of Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Buckhorn's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.