NY Lawmakers May Raise Minimum Wage

12:45 AM, Feb 26, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- If state lawmakers decide to act, New York's minimum wage may soon be rising.

A majority of New York State Lawmakers support raising the state minimum wage, but the state senate has not yet acted on it.

Polls have indicated most New Yorkers strongly support an increase. Based on numbers from 2011, more than 90,000 New Yorkers earn the minimum wage. Many of them say it's just not enough to make ends meet.

"The price of food is higher. Everything is higher," said Katie Johnson of Buffalo, who works two jobs. "So, if minimum wage were higher, that would be helpful in terms of paying bills and just living a normal life."

Governor Cuomo is now pushing state lawmakers to raise New York's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75. President Obama wants it even higher at the federal level at $9, with an annual increase tied to the rate of inflation.

Republicans in the State Senate are reportedly trying to stop any hike in the minimum wage unless it has some type of offsetting tax credit for business owners. But they agree you can't live off $7.25 an hour.

"The question is: what is the minimum wage for?" asked Republican State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer of Amherst. "If it's meant to be the wage that you have for your entire life to support your family, certainly that's not going to cut it. But if it's meant as a wage to get you started and work your way up the ladder, and is meant as a wage, as it often is, for people to get a second job so they can supplement the incomes for their families, then it's a different issue."

Ranzenhofer said he's not sure if and when state lawmakers will vote on raising the minimum wage. New York, he says, may wait to see what Washington does.

For small business owners, it's a numbers game. Even those who actually support a wage hike say that, when profits are small to begin with, paying workers more could mean they'll either have to hire fewer people or raise prices.

"You can't go in the red just because you want to be a good guy," said Sam Buscarino, who owns Sammy's Auto Repair in Buffalo. "Somebody has got to pay for it, and in the end, it's the consumer who pays, whether it's me buying something at a restaurant, or you buying a set of tires from me. It's just the way it is."

Buscarino said he supports the minimum wage hike, but calls it a "band-aid" solution to a much bigger economic problem in upstate New York.

"Unless we get more manufacturing-type jobs and or high tech jobs, then the minimum wage has to go up because that's what people are living on right now," he said.

It's a new reality in an economy moving more and more toward serving things instead of building them.

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