Assembly Democrats, businesses differ on impact of minimum-wage hike

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In announcing legislation today to increase New York’s minimum wage, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the federal minimum-wage law in 1938 to “give flight to the American dream.” But the dream is in peril as corporate profits continue to rise while the “wages of working people remain stagnant or are eroding in value.” Nearly one in two Americans have fallen into poverty or joined the ranks of the worker poor, the 2010 U.S. Census found, the speaker said.

The bill would increase minimum hourly pay in New York from $7.25 to $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2013. It would be indexed to inflation “so the value of the minimum wage would not erode as the cost of living rises,” Silver said.

The speaker disputed critics of increasing the minimum wage, who have said that would reduce the number of jobs and hurt the economy. “Studies show that minimum-wage earners spend extra dollars immediately in their corner stores, their local pharmacy, neighborhood restaurants, and thereby spurring economic growth and creating jobs,” he said. “Equally important, rigorous research conducted by economists in 2010 has debunked the myth that raising the minimum wage has caused job loss.”

Groups like Citizen Action, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the state AFL-CIO are supporting the Assembly Democrats’ legislation.

The state Business Council and New York Farm Bureau oppose it, said the increase would hurt its membership. The groups said in a statement that studies have show increasing the minimum wage doesn’t decrease poverty or increase employment. Dean Norton, president of the Farm Bureau, called the proposed increase “a stealth tax masquerading as a benefit for workers.”

Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the Business Council, said creating more private-sector jobs is the way to improve New York’s economy. “Raising the minimum wage would only hurt New York’s small businesses, farms and not-for-profits that are struggling to make their current payrolls, and reduce job opportunities, in this difficult economy,” she said.

Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said the Senate GOP “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 Governor Cuomo.”

As for Cuomo, “The governor has been supportive of previous proposals to raise the minimum wage, and we will be reviewing the proposal through the legislative session,” spokesman Matt Wing said.

This is a video of Silver introducing the legislation:

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