Stewart-Cousins Backs $9 Wage, Senate GOP Wants To Wait
Senate lawmakers on opposing sides of the aisle have differing takes on what to do about the minimum wage hike now that a federal proposal from President Obama would push it to $9.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today backed Obama’s plan laid out in the State of the Union, announcing that he had introduced an amendment that would raise New York’s wage from $7.25 to $9 and then index it to the rate of inflation.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan would increase the wage to $8.75, but without indexing.
Cuomo said yesterday to reporters in Queens that its probably best to raise the minimum wage on the federal level in order to eliminate state-by-state competition, but said he would continue pushing for his proposal, which is included in the $142.6 billion budget plan.
A wage hike is not exepcted to be a problem in the state Assembly, which is controlled by a Democratic supermajority.
But the focus has been on the narrowly divided state Senate, which is under the control of a coalition of Republicans and five Democrats.
Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, said in a statement that now that there’s a federal proposal on the table, perhaps it’s “best to wait and see” what happens in Washington before Albany takes action.
“Since New York’s minimum wage is tied to the federal minimum wage, Senator Skelos agrees with the Governor that it should be set at the federal level. In light of President Obama’s proposal and our intention to keep New York businesses from being put at a competitive disadvantage, it may be best to wait and see what the federal government does before the state acts.”
It is a new stance for the Senate Republicans, who have said they would be open to negotiating the measure with Cuomo.
The federal minimum wage becomes the default if it is higher than a state’s minimum wage.
But Senate Democrats, naturally disagree. Sen. Kevin Parker, for example, even has a bill that would phase-in the minimum wage to $11.15.
Interviewed on Capital Tonight Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the $9 proposal from Obama adds “impetus” to the debate here in New York.
“We can do better,” she said of the current minimum wage. “We need to raise the minimum wage. The president saying in his State of the Union speech taht we actually should go to $9 an hour I think will really had impeutus to the debate. Clearly the governor did a good thing by putting the $8.75 into his budget. The debate I think is whether we index or whether we go to $9, but I think the reality here is in New York alone 1.1 million people will be benefitted by raising the minimum wage.”
There’s a certain degree of irony here, given that Senate Republicans backed a minimum wage hike in 2004 in order to help then-Sen. Nick Spano stave off an election challenge from none other than Stewart-Cousins.
As for waiting, Stewart-Cousins said she disagrees with that idea.
“Why wait? Why not raise the minimum wage now and as the president said index it so we’re not constantly scrambling,” she said.
The pro-business group Unshackle Upstate, meanwhile, reacted to Silver’s proposal by strongly reiterating their opposition.
“Speaker Silver’s new minimum wage proposal demonstrates his lack of regard for struggling job creators and unemployed New Yorkers,” said Executive Director Brian Sampson. “By increasing the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour and indexing it to inflation, employment opportunities will vanish, jobs will be lost and businesses will suffer. Consumers will also pay the price for this ill-advised proposal as the cost of goods will increase.”
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