New York Governor Pushes Highest State Minimum Wage in U.S.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) proposed raising the state’s minimum wage on Wednesday during his 2015 State of the State address.

The governor’s plan would raise the statewide minimum wage to $10.50 an hour and $11.50 an hour in New York City. Responses to the plan have been mixed, with some arguing the proposed wages aren’t actually enough to live on.

“It’s certainly not [a living wage] in NYC or the downtown suburbs, but it’s an improvement over where New York state was,” said James Parrott, deputy director and chief economist of the Financial Policy Institute.

New York’s current minimum wage is $8.75 per hour, and is already set to rise to $9 per hour in 2016. But pushing for a higher wage makes economic sense, some experts say.

“The cost of living in New York City is higher than elsewhere,” said Dan Crawford, media relations director for the Economic Policy Institute. “If New York wants to attract workers, they should have a higher minimum wage.”

Although the governor’s proposal is expected to face opposition from Republicans in the state Senate, Cuomo will be under pressure to deliver, Parrott stressed.

“It is the centerpiece of a new issue — inequality — for the governor, so he is invested in the proposal,” Parrott said. “He has shown in the past that if something is really important for him, he can twist legislative arms to make it happen. He has raised expectations so he will look ineffective if it doesn’t happen.”

Promoting a higher minimum wage has proven to be sound political currency in the state as well.

“The governor has also seen the mileage that Mayor de Blasio has gotten out of his emphasis on lifting wages, and there is growing business support for a higher minimum,” Parrott added.

The proposal also ties into a national conversation about the minimum wage. Some critics have argued that a higher minimum wage results in fewer jobs. But EPI data contradicts this, according to Crawford.

“It has a very minimal effect on employment,” he said. “Businesses find other ways to save that money — they don’t just lay people off.”

Cuomo’s proposal is just a starting point for New York’s contribution to the debate, Parrott suggested.

“That momentum to raise the minimum wage is still on the rise,” he said. “There will also be pressure in New York state to raise wages in other ways, e.g., related to government contracts.”

If the governor’s plan succeeds, New York will have the highest minimum wage in the nation — a position currently held by Washington state at $9.47 an hour.

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