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Sen. Gillibrand champions $10.10 minimum wage; Owens has concerns

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CANTON - U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand touted legislation she co-sponsored Tuesday that would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over the next three years in a press call.

Mrs. Gillibrand said, “It’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet,” going on to note the increasing cost of essential goods like gasoline and groceries.

The senator’s proposal, called the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, would see the minimum wage rise incrementally over three years in order to do a better job of keeping pace with inflation. Future increases would be tied to the rate of inflation.

Rep. William L. Owens said a minimum wage hike makes sense if you look at the situation from a distance.

“On the ground for the small businesses it’s a real problem,” Mr. Owens said.

Mr. Owens introduced legislation last month that would enable small businesses to give tax free dividends to their owners up to the amount they increase wages for their workers.

“It’s a tax credit that encourages owners to increase the wages of their employees,” Mr. Owens said, adding that his legislation would only give breaks for raises given to workers making up to $50,000 a year.

Mrs. Gillibrand noted in the north country 22 percent of workers are making minimum wage, roughly $290 a week. At that level Mrs. Gillibrand said the annual salary for a family of three is $3,000 under the poverty level.

In total the senator estimated her proposed minimum wage increase would result in $3.2 billion in wage increases for New Yorkers, impacting roughly 1.8 million people.

“We want to reward work in this country,” Mrs. Gillibrand said. “Anyone who works 40 hours a week should be able to provide for their kids.”

The senator acknowledged the work being done in New York state to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. A decision on minimum wage in the state is expected to be released along with the state budget.

“I think it’s great for our state to take a leadership role in raising the minimum wage,” Mrs. Gillibrand said.

But the senator said even $9 an hour is “inadequate.”

“It’s important for the minimum wage to be increased at the national level,” Mrs. Gillibrand said.

But Mr. Owens said he doubts Mrs. Gillibrand’s proposal will have the support it needs to clear the House of Representatives. So far his legislation has also failed to garner significant support.

Even if the senator’s legislation did make it to the House, Mr. Owens said the lack of tax incentives included concerns him.

“I would offer my bill as an amendment to Gillibrand’s,” Mr. Owens said.

Either way Mr. Owens said he believes any substantive discussion about raising the federal minimum wage will have to wait until the government deals with the potential government shut down on March 27, the debt ceiling, on-going sequestration and immigration.

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