Republican State Senators Indicate New Openness to Raising Minimum Wage

ALBANY – Republicans in the State Senate, who have resisted a push by Democrats to raise the state’s minimum wage, said on Monday that they were open to including a wage increase in the state budget proposal that lawmakers are negotiating.

The Senate’s majority coalition, made up of Republicans and an independent faction of Democrats, floated the idea of gradually increasing the wage to an unspecified amount from $7.25 per hour over the next three years.

The Senate has been the chief roadblock for raising the minimum wage, which has been a top priority for Democrats for more than a year. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, included a measure in his budget proposal that would increase the wage to $8.75 per hour, and the Democratic-controlled State Assembly passed a bill last week that would raise the wage to $9 per hour and tie it to inflation.

Republicans in the Senate, whose members make up the bulk of the coalition that controls the chamber, have resisted the proposals. They have argued that raising the minimum wage could hurt the state’s economy and spur employers to cut low-paying jobs.

But on Monday, the majority coalition raised the idea of a gradual increase, though it did not provide specifics. The proposal was included as part of the Senate’s budget resolution — essentially a blueprint that lays out the chamber’s priorities heading into the final stage of negotiations over the state’s new spending plan — that lawmakers adopted on Monday.

“What I said in our budget resolution is that I would consider it, along with other business tax credits and incentives,” the leader of the Senate Republicans, Dean G. Skelos of Long Island, told reporters after meeting with Mr. Cuomo and other legislative leaders. “I still think for a number of individuals, especially the young, that it could mean higher unemployment.”

The other leader of the Senate majority coalition, Jeffrey D. Klein, an independent Democrat from the Bronx, was considerably more optimistic. He said the inclusion of the wage proposal in the Senate’s budget resolution “absolutely” made him more confident that some version of a minimum-wage increase would be included in the budget that lawmakers adopt.

“We clearly have a lot of numbers, and I think it’s incumbent upon us now to consider what that perfect number is for minimum wage workers around the state,” Mr. Klein said.

Mr. Cuomo, speaking to reporters at a meeting with his cabinet, described the Senate’s move as “a sign of progress.”

“That means they are willing to discuss it in the budget,” he said. “Now the problem is we all have different minimum wage numbers. So that’s what has to be reconciled.”

Other Democrats, however, were not enthusiastic about the Senate’s proposal. A spokesman for the Senate Democrats, Mike Murphy, described the proposal as “not real,” citing the lack of details in the budget resolution. He called on the Republicans to drop their objections and allow Democrats — who have a numerical majority in the Senate — to vote immediately on a minimum-wage increase.

The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, was also unimpressed by the Senate’s proposal.

“The fact is, there’s no substance to it,” he said. “They don’t tell you what it is. They don’t tell you whether there’s indexing or not. So we really have no clue as to what they did.”

Lawmakers are required to approve a budget by April 1. This year, they are seeking to finish their work by March 21 in order to avoid conflicting with the observance of Passover and Easter.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin WordPress | Android Forums | WordPress Tutorials
Go to Source