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Business group says compromises show wage bill is faulty

Andrew Cuomo speaks during an event where he

Andrew Cuomo speaks during an event where he announced that he wants to raise the minimum wage in New York state to $15 per hour. Credit: EPA / JUSTIN LANE

ALBANY — Opponents of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour on Thursday cited the compromises now being considered as reason to trash the whole thing.

“The carveouts for small businesses and farmers acknowledges it will have a negative impact, so what’s the point?” said Mike Durant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The NFIB is part of the business-backed Minimum Wage Reality Check Campaign.

Durant made the comments Thursday in a Capitol mostly empty of legislators or Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The governor and legislative leaders are privately negotiating a 2016-17 state budget that a source told Newsday on Wednesday is hinging on raising the minimum wage to $15, from $9 (nwsdy.li/1XQhM4G), which was effective Jan. 1.

Since Cuomo announced his top priority in January, proposals have surfaced to spread out the phased-in increase in the wage for farmers and for other upstate employers where the economic recovery is more fragile and where the cost of living is far less than in New York City and its suburbs, including Long Island. The Assembly’s Democratic majority also proposes $200 million in state funds be used to help nonprofit social service agencies operating on state contracts to afford the higher wage.

Legislators said a break is also being considered in closed-door negotiations for Long Island and the northern suburbs.

Cuomo has pushed the proposal in a series of union-backed rallies around the state. He would create a $15 minimum wage statewide by 2021, although it would be effective in New York City in 2018.

“The governor’s proposal is just a political proposal to help big labor,” Durant said. “We want it pulled it.”

If the minimum wage proposal was dropped from the state budget deal due April 1, it could be still enacted by the end of the legislative session June 16. But under state law, Cuomo has far more leverage over the Legislature in a budget deal than in the general legislative session.

Durant’s comments support the views of some Republicans in the Senate majority strongly opposed to the proposal. They call it a job killer.

In past years, differing minimum wages were opposed by Cuomo and legislators who said it would create a disadvantage for some employers who could lose employees to nearby counties paying higher wages.

On Wednesday, however, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said it makes sense to account for different economic circumstances in different regions. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said he’s sensitive to a need to reflect the concerns of employers on Long Island, although he said his conference hasn’t yet agreed to support any increase in the minimum wage.

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