Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a bill into law...

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a bill into law tripling the tax credits available to companies specializing in postproduction, including film editing, visual effects, color correction, and sound editing and mixing. (March 27, 2012) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that the debate over raising the minimum wage by $1.25 is more politically divisive than same-sex marriage was last year.

"This is broader and deeper a divide," Cuomo said at a news conference. "It's a political, philosophical divide. Marriage in some ways is more of a personal judgment for people, on their personal values."

Last June, demonstrators on either side of the same-sex marriage issue packed the halls of the Capitol for two weeks, and passage of the bill was international news.

While Cuomo has repeatedly said he supported the concept of raising the minimum wage, he hasn't come out in favor of any proposal.

Flanked by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), Cuomo said Tuesday that the divide over raising the wage floor was the reason he hadn't pushed for it.

Cuomo added that he wasn't optimistic that Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats could work out a compromise before the legislative session ends June 21. The Assembly has passed a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour from $7.25 and tie future increases to inflation.

Silver has staked out the increase as his top priority.

"It's important for the state, and an engine for economic growth in our communities," he said at the news conference. "It puts money into the pockets of people who go out and spend it."

Skelos says a hike would hurt businesses.

"We are not doing a minimum wage increase in the Senate," Skelos said later in the day.

Because the state and federal wage floors aren't pegged to inflation, their purchasing power declines over time. Had the federal minimum been linked to inflation in 2009 -- when it rose to $7.25 an hour -- it would be $7.75 today, based on the Consumer Price Index.

Skelos has introduced a package to reduce the tax burden on business to "send a message to the business community . . . that we're serious about creating jobs especially in the small business sector."

The measure would give $394 million in tax breaks and credits this year to small businesses, manufacturers, beer brewers and film production companies. Benefits would increase in future years.

But Cuomo said: "Probably we can't afford any right now. There's not a lot of flexibility."

The timing of the bill's introduction on Friday raised the question of whether parts of it could pass in a compromise, but Silver and Skelos have downplayed that possibility.

"The speaker has indicated the two should not be linked. I agree with him," Skelos said. "If he wants to pass legislation that creates jobs then he should pass our package."

Latest videos