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NY minimum-wage bill passes Assembly

Myrna Capaldi of Kingston, and other members of

Myrna Capaldi of Kingston, and other members of Workers Justice Center, show support for the bill during a visit to Albany on Tuesday. (May 15, 2012) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- The State Assembly Tuesday passed a bill to increase the state minimum wage to $8.50, but it has yet to receive support from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo or the State Senate.

Many lawmakers believe the issue will be hotly debated until the end of the session in June, and a Cuomo spokesman downplayed its chances. "We do not believe there will be an agreement this session," spokesman Josh Vlasto said in a statement. Cuomo has said he supports an increase but has not backed a particular bill.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) opposes the bill sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), but Tuesday left the door open for a compromise. Asked whether he would oppose any increase in the minimum wage, he would only say that "we will not pass the speaker's bill."

Silver's legislation would increase the minimum wage by $1.25 from $7.25 and link future increases to inflation. Because the state and federal wage floors aren't pegged to inflation, their purchasing power declines over time. The minimum wage is higher than $7.25 in 18 states, including Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

A majority of registered New York voters from both parties support a $1.25 increase, according to a Siena Research Institute poll released Monday. The minimum wage hike is supported by 78 percent of voters.

"People who work a full week, full-time, should not go home poor and that's what's happening right now in New York," Silver said. Calling an increase in the minimum wage "the moral thing to do," Silver said he was open to changes to the bill but discussions with Skelos have not occurred.

But Skelos said that increasing the minimum wage would hurt businesses and cause layoffs. "We have to make sure that our economy grows," he said.

During a lengthy debate on the Assembly floor, Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) said an increase in the minimum wage would increase costs for villages and towns that employ minimum-wage workers.

"At a time when we're telling local governments we're trying to relieve mandates, here comes another one," Murray said.

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