Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has introduced legislation that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour, prompting plaudits from the regions lone Democratic lawmaker and backlash from Republicans and farm groups.
Supporters of a minimum wage hike say that it will help put money in the pockets of the working poor, which will in turn be injected into the economy, helping spur the recovery. But opponents say that it would harm businesses and that the effects would trickle down to workers. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hasnt yet revealed which side he favors.
It is absurd to expect anyone to afford the cost of living today and be able to invest in their future on a pay rate of $7.25 an hour, Mr. Silver, D-Manhattan, said in a news release. That is why it is my top priority this legislative session to repair the ladder to success, to make an investment in our working families and ensure that they can continue to do so as the cost of living continues to rise.
In addition to hiking the minimum wage, the bill would increase the minimum wage as the rate of inflation increased.
Opponents of the bill said that it wouldnt actually help workers, despite its promises. It could actually cause job losses and an increase in the price of goods, they warn.
Farm groups in particular are opposed to such legislation.
Todays proposal to increase New Yorks minimum wage is a stealth tax for our states farmers masquerading as a benefit for workers, Dean Norton, the president of agribusiness lobbying group Farm Bureau of New York, said in a news release. In reality, this proposal will hurt the very people that it aims to help, by artificially increasing payroll and forcing farmers to make tough decisions about the size of their workforce and the price of their products.
Republicans sided with the business and farm groups against a minimum wage hike.
Were barely getting by right now, said state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton. I think this will present a hardship for small businesses.
Add Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, to the no column, too.
I think the minimum wage is a starting salary level for a lot of students, part-time students and young people trying to raise money for school, he said. So I think it may affect how many of those would receive jobs in our community if we raise the minimum wage right now.
Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, supports the bill. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage than New York, according to the Assembly majority. An increase is supported by unions such as the state AFL-CIO.
Mrs. Russell said the issue wasnt just one of fairness for minimum-wage workers, but a treatment for the ailing economy.
Whether its demand for more groceries or going to a local restaurant or diner or whether its buying more clothing for their children, this is money thats likely to be spent here locally, she said. This may be one of the ways we can get out of this recession.