Economy

New York Governor Calls For Major Minimum Wage Hike

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mike Groll

On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) unveiled several new proposals, including a call to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in the city and $10.50 an hour for workers in the rest of the state.

“It’s too easy to say, ‘Get a job,’ ” Cuomo said during a press conference in Manhattan. “You need to get a job, which means you need to have the training and the skills to get the job, which means the job has to exist, and when you get the job, it means the job has to pay enough so you can pay for rent and you can pay for food and it is a sustainable wage.”

The minimum wage in New York is currently $8.75 an hour, boosted from $7.25 in 2013, and is set to reach $9 an hour by 2016. Cuomo, noting that “the wage gap has continued to increase,” proposed that the $10.50 and $11.50 minimum wages go into effect at the end of 2016.

Some say that still isn’t enough to support a family in the state, however. “Eleven-fifty is almost $2 less than what he endorsed last spring,” Bill Lipton, director of the New York State Working Families Party, told the New York Times. “And the truth is it’s nearly impossible to raise a family in this state on even $12 or $13 an hour.”

Business Council CEO Heather Briccetti voiced a common argument in opposition to raising the minimum wage, saying “the end result will be fewer jobs created and potential job losses that will adversely impact both small businesses and entry-level workers.”

The big hurdle for Cuomo’s proposal will be winning the approval of the state legislature, namely the Republican-controlled state Senate. Cuomo told reporters on Sunday, however, that he believes the strength of the market makes the current conditions more favorable for reaching a deal than in the past.

States are increasingly raising their own wages ahead of the federal government. Fourteen states approved a minimum wage hike last year alone, including four ballot initiatives that won the approval of voters in November — even those in deep red states. With those votes, 26 states and the District of Columbia have higher minimum wages than is stipulated by federal law.

Contrary to fears, the 13 states that raised the minimum wage at the beginning of 2014 saw higher employment growth through the first half of the year than those that kept theirs the same.

The federal minimum wage currently sits at $7.25. Democrats in Congress have introduced several bills that would raise that to $10.10, but the measures have been blocked by Republicans.

Not only has it been estimated that a $10.10 minimum wage could lift approximately 4.6 million people out of poverty immediately; there are several other short and long-term benefits, including a significant reduction in government spending on public programs. A report released in December by the Economic Policy Institute found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would give those workers enough of an income boost that they could be less reliant on public programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) — ultimately cutting government spending on those programs by $7.6 billion a year.