ALBANY - (Corrects that Mayor de Blasio proposed $13 minimum wage tied to inflation that could hit $15 in 2019.)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Wednesday rejected a new plea by more than two dozen business lobbying groups who promised to wage an election-year campaign against the proposed $15 minimum wage.
The state Business Council, Unshackle Upstate, and the State Farm Bureau, along with restaurant, tourism and construction interests, said they will target upstate and Long Island Republican senators as well as suburban and rural Democratic Assembly members to counter Cuomo’s push to make New York’s minimum wage the highest in the nation.
They sent letters to Cuomo and legislative leaders on Wednesday.
“It sounds good on paper, like who doesn’t love puppies,” said Patrick Pipino, the independent franchise owner of a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream store in Saratoga Springs whose corporate owner supports what it calls a “livable wage.”
“But the nuts and bolts are much more difficult,” Pipino said.
The minimum wage is already scheduled to increase to $9 on Dec. 31 from $8.25 under a 2013 law. Business owners said another increase would be an unaffordable labor increase of up to 70 percent that would force layoffs, cuts in hours for workers, business closings and higher prices for goods.
“These are the same discredited arguments we always hear when minimum wage hikes are considered,” said Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland.
The “Minimum Wage Reality Check” effort comes in a week amid reports of up to 1,040 layoffs in upstate counties by three large employers.
“Upstate New York has had a rough week so far on the job front and I don’t know that upstate New York can handle any more hemorrhaging of jobs,” said Mike Durant of the National Federation of Independent Business.
The business group will have to overcome polls that show public support for raising the minimum wage to as much as $15.
“The governor and a clear majority of New Yorkers believe that if you work full time you shouldn’t be condemned to a life of poverty,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “It is no secret that these groups oppose the governor’s minimum wage proposal; in fact most of them have aggressively opposed every minimum wage increase.”
Heastie, the Assembly speaker, proposed a $15 minimum wage last year, while Cuomo proposed a $10.50 minimum for most of the state, with an $11.50 minimum in New York City. Neither gained approval from the Senate’s Republican majority. Mayor Bill de Blasio had sought a $13 minimum wage that would rise with the cost of living and likely reach $15 in 2019.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) says he has concerns that must be debated. He had no immediate comment Wednesday.
Binghamton business operator Art Price said the proposal was a “sneaky way” by politicians to make employers pay for a failed welfare program without raising taxes.
Cuomo would phase in the increase to $15 by 2018 in New York City and by 2020 elsewhere. That would mirror the minimum wage increase to $15 for fast-food workers approved in executive action by his appointed Wage Board this summer.