ALBANY - Breaking ranks with other business lobbying groups, a major New York trade association said it would support an increase in the minimum wage, but not the one that has been proposed.
The Retail Council of New York State, which represents nearly 5,000 retailers, would like any increase to be phased in over several years rather than jump to $8.50 an hour from the current $7.25, as has been proposed.
"The concern about the bill as it's currently drafted is that it goes too high too fast," said Ted Potrikus, the council's director of government relations. "Jumping up to $8.50 an hour is very quick for the retail industry to absorb."
If an increase were to go up in smaller steps, "that gives the retailers more time to plan for it, they can scope what their needs are and what they need to do to meet that payroll," he said.
Retailers' big problem with the bill introduced in January by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) is that in the future, the minimum wage would increase with inflation.
"That's the one part of this equation that has them the most concerned because the last four or five years have not been the greatest for the retail industry," Potrikus said.
Small-business owners say, "We don't know from year to year what our numbers are going to look like," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has said that increasing the minimum wage would be a "job killer." Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is leaning toward a hike, although he hasn't committed to one.
The Business Council of New York State opposes raising the minimum wage to $8.50, but spokesman Robert Lillpopp would not comment on whether there was a lower increase that would be acceptable to them.
James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, is against any increase. "It becomes a problem if it goes up by a penny," Calvin said Thursday. "There isn't any justification for it and we can't afford it. Our sales are down."