The debate over increasing the state's minimum wage took a big turn this week after President Obama called for raising it to $9 an hour on the federal level. And now the two sides seem to be getting further apart. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman explains.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Only a few days ago, New York seemed poised to increase the state's minimum wage, currently at $7.25 an hour. And then this happened.
“Let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour,” President Barack Obama said.
President Obama's call in the State of the Union Address this week turned the debate over the wage here in New York on its head. Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget would increase the wage to $8.75 and unlike Obama's plan, future increases would not be indexed to the rate of inflation. Cuomo says he's still proceeding with his proposal, but hopes Washington will act as well.
Cuomo said, “I hope the federal government does it. If the federal government did do it, you could argue it's less urgent for the state to do it, but I think we go down both tracks simultaneously. Let's hope they pass it on the federal side and let's proceed on the state side in the mean time.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver this week amended the state-level wage increase in his chamber to reflect what Obama proposed: $9, plus tying it inflation. But ask Senate Republicans, who have said they're open to negotiating either a phased-in increase of the minimum wage and you get a different answer.
“I think it should be left up to the federal government. My preference would be we don't touch it, we leave it up to the federal government to deal with,” State Senator Pat Gallivan said.
Republican Leader Dean Skelos has said he would be open to a phased-in hike or a training wage, but Democrats in the Senate and Assembly are pushing for tying increases to inflation, a move the business community opposes. Independent Democratic Leader Jeff Klein, who shares the Senate presidency with Skelos, says he wants to get the wage increased this year.
“I still think indexing is the way to go, but I think the most important thing that we have to achieve in this legislative session is an increase in the minimum wage,” Klein said.
Klein's comments came before Obama proposed the wage increase. The next day, the Bronx Democrat released a statement praising the $9 an hour proposal.