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ALBANY -- State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Tuesday began amending a bill to boost the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, adding indexing for inflation and an option for a higher local wage in areas such as New York City.
That would put the bill in line with a commitment by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to raise the minimum wage that the liberal Working Families Party extracted from him at its convention two weeks ago.
Senate Republicans are still expected to try to block the Assembly bill. But Silver's effort could put pressure on the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares majority control with Republicans, to support an amended bill. Also, IDC leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) faces a challenge in the Democratic primary in September from former Bronx Councilman Oliver Koppell, who has the financial backing of some unions and is running on a platform to unify Democrats and form a Democratic majority.
As part of his deal to get the WFP nomination, Cuomo said the five independent Democrats must unite with other minority Democrats to give Democrats a majority. A Democratic majority would be expected to pass liberal measures, including a minimum wage increase.
Currently, the Senate coalition of Republicans and the IDC hold a narrow majority.
The Assembly's minimum wage bill would be a test of IDC members.
The Working Families Party and its allies in labor started applying pressure Tuesday.
"With the governor's support for raising wages, we hope the IDC follows the Assembly's lead and joins with Senate Democrats to give workers better wages and better lives," said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the WFP.
One member of the IDC, Sen. David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown), said there was no renewed effort to boost the minimum wage. But he said that with six days left in the scheduled legislative session, "anything is possible."
Carlucci also may face a primary from a Democratic activist, Clarkstown Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner, who is considering a run. Earlier this month, the Rockland County Democratic Committee wanted Carlucci to commit to uniting with Democrats and leave the IDC as a condition of gaining its endorsement.
"I'm a hard-core Democrat," Carlucci said Tuesday. "But I'm not going to tie my hands."
The state minimum wage is $8 an hour. Legislation passed last year will increase the wage to $9 on Dec. 31, 2015. But since that political compromise with Republicans who felt a higher wage could cost jobs in a fragile economic recovery, the Obama administration and other states have proposed $10 wages.