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Long Island Association opposes $15 minimum wage

Lawrence Waldman, chairman of the Long Island Association

Lawrence Waldman, chairman of the Long Island Association board, speaking at a Long Island Power Authority trustees meeting. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

The Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, has decided to oppose raising the state minimum wage to $15 per hour, officials said Friday.

The LIA’s 68-member board of directors voted last week to take a stand against proposals for a sharp increase to the hourly wage rate. The state minimum wage rose to $9 per hour on Dec. 31, from $8.75 under legislation adopted several years ago.

The LIA vote came after a November study by LIA chief economist John A. Rizzo that found the Island would lose nearly 23,400 jobs and pay about $54 million more in property taxes with a $15 wage rate.

Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called on the State Legislature to boost minimum hourly pay to $15 by 2021.

Lawrence Waldman, LIA board chairman, said Friday, “As we continue to move forward from a slow and bumpy economic recovery and seek to improve the region’s business climate, the board took the position that this was the wrong time to mandate higher wages on businesses.” He is an adviser to the Long Island office of accounting firm EisnerAmper.

LIA president Kevin Law, who also serves on the group’s board, said it weighed a minimum wage hike over three board meetings. He said the vote to oppose an increase wasn’t unanimous but represented a “very clear majority.”

Law pointed to the LIA study that found most of the job cuts from a higher wage rate would be at farms, restaurants, retailers, factories and nonprofit groups. They would total 2 percent of the 1.3 million workers in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The study forecast losses of $342 million for Island businesses in the 2016-21 period from the wage increase, and more than $54 million for local governments facing higher labor costs, which in turn would lead to hikes in property taxes.

“We felt that we needed to look out for small businesses and farms,” Law said Friday.

He also said there was some support among board members for increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, training programs that would give people the skills necessary to get higher-paying jobs, and a minimum wage increase that is less than $15 per hour. However, no formal board vote was taken on these proposals.

Law said the LIA wouldn’t join 37 other business groups that oppose a pay increase through the Minimum Wage Reality Check campaign, a lobbying effort in Albany. Instead, the LIA hopes to influence ongoing negotiations between Cuomo and the legislature.

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