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New York State Democrats Will Propose Hike in State Minimum Wage to $8.50 an Hour
New York Daily News
Kenneth Lovett

January 29, 2012
View the Original Article

Assembly Democrats Monday will propose a hike in the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, the Daily News has learned.

The plan also will include a provision for automatic increases going forward that are tied to inflation, according to sources.

The state's current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. It has been increased five times since 2000--the last time in 2009, when it automatically went up a dime-an-hour to meet the federal rate.

Raising it to $8.50 an hour would give New York one of the highest rates in the country, only behind such states as Oregon and Washington.

Supporters say it is needed because salaries for low-wage earners have not kept up in recent years with rising consumer costs, while businesses warn it could further hurt a battered economy.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wouldn't provide specifics, but confirmed to he News that his majority would unveil its plan on Monday at the Capitol.

Silver, who first raised the idea on Jan. 4 in a speech just before Gov. Cuomo's state-of-the-state address, said at the time an increase would affect 14% of the workforce, or 1.2 million people.

He called an increase the top priority this year for the Assembly Dems.

"Frankly, it is absurd to expect anyone - let alone a working family - to afford the cost of living today and be able to invest in their future on a salary of $7.25 an hour; or $15,000 a year," Silver said at the time.

Cuomo last week had expressed openness to an increase this year.

He said he has long supported minimum wage increases, but held off taking a position on one this year until a specific plan is proposed.

Senate Republicans are considered the greatest obstacle.

They have long opposed hikes to the minimum wage, saying it hurts job growth.

On Sunday, Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif didn't take a position.

"Senate Republicans will continue to promote policies that encourage job growth and make New York a more business-friendly state, just as we did last year partnering with Gov. Cuomo," Reif said.

Mayor Bloomberg, a big-time backer of Senate Republicans, has said he supports a minimum wage hike.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, hailed any hike to worker wages, calling it "an important step forward."

"The way there can be an economic recovery is to put more money into the hands of the people who have very little," Appelbaum said. "Every penny they get they are going to spend. It comes back to the economy."

But many business groups have argued it would lead to job losses and make New York less competitive with neighboring states.

Eighteen states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, currently have higher minimum wage rates than new York.