The State Assembly is moving forward with hearings on a proposal to raise the state's minimum wage. The second of the Assembly's hearings was held in Syracuse. YNN's Bill Carey says the battle lines are no surprise.
NEW YORK STATE -- The argument is familiar to those who've seen similar battles over the minimum wage in the past. The argument for the bill is that the $7.25 wage limit has not kept pace with inflation and that those on the bottom rung have fallen further and further behind.
“I work every day. I'm the single parent of two boys. I budget my money the best way I know how and I still have to ask for assistance from DSS,” said Denise Elijah, a school bus driver.
“Contrary to popular belief, most poor people go to work every day. And many poor people even work more than one job. As a faith leader, I have to say, that it is repugnant and morally reprehensible for people who faithfully go to work every day to have to live in poverty,” said Rev. Kevin Agee, Hopps Memorial Church.
The argument against is that raising the minimum wage will have consequences for the state's economy.
“From our members, we hear that such an immediate and sizeable increase in what would be the new base for hourly wages, across the spectrum, would adversely affect retailers’ ability to retain and hire new employees,” said Ted Potrikus of the Retail Council of New York State.
But in the age of the Tea Party, the argument has been broadened. Rather than raise minimum wages, the argument calls for lowering state taxes. The reasoning? That lowering New York's cost of living will have more of an impact on poor workers.
“Health care, cell phones, gasoline. Day care. Clothing. New York State taxes in those areas are among the highest in the nation,” State Assemblyman Donald Miller said.
“Albany has taxed and spent this state to a point that we may never recover. And raising the minimum wage is not going to improve the state of New Yorkers,” said Mark Venesky, a former UPS Account Manager.
The future of that increase in the state minimum wage remains unclear. While there is support in the Assembly, in the Senate, it's a different story. And the governor has yet to stake out a firm position on an increase this year.
The most likely solution may be similar to past minimum wage laws. An agreement on a new minimum with a phase in of the wage over a period of time. A solution that may leave both sides in the debate dissatisfied.
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont already have higher minimum wage levels. New Jersey lawmakers are also pushing to raise their rate above the current $7.25 an hour.