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Minimum wage advocates seek $200M in budget for nonprofits

ALBANY — Supporters on Tuesday made a public plea to attach $200 million in additional state spending to a budget proposal that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour as a way to cover the costs of the higher wage for nonprofit social service groups.

Such public demonstrations traditionally give a glimpse at the conflict within private state budget negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders and are aimed at applying public pressure on a sticking point. The public pleas are often at the behest of the governor or legislative leaders inside the private negotiations to improve their hand.

The fight over the minimum wage is the biggest single fight in the budget due by April 1. It pits Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Assembly’s Democratic majority against the Senate’s Republican majority.

“We don’t want to see the Senate basically scapegoat nonprofits,” said Ron Deutsch of the labor-backed Fiscal Policy Institute at Tuesday’s news conference outside the Senate chamber. “These are some of the most important jobs in society.”

The criticism Tuesday was also a likely preview of the political attack on the popular issue, should it fail, that Republicans could face in legislative elections this fall. The elections will determine control of the Senate.

The advocates from religious social service groups and other nonprofit agencies seek an additional $200 million in the budget for nonprofit agencies that contract with the state to provide services such as homeless shelters and home health care at a lower cost than if done by state agencies.

The Senate’s Republican majority has opposed the $15 minimum wage proposal pushed by Cuomo and the Assembly’s Democratic majority. Senate Republicans and business groups have argued raising the wage from $9 would force employers to cut jobs. This week, as closed-door budget talks go underway, several Republican senators have said they are increasingly concerned about the impact of such a drastic wage increase on nonprofit groups.

The Democrat-led Assembly has proposed adding $200 million to the budget to increase state contracts with nonprofit agencies to cover the added labor costs. The Senate’s Republican majority included none.

A Democratic assemblyman at the press conference appealed to the Senate Republicans and their priority of creating jobs and expanding the economy.

“You cannot have a successful economy that is based on very low wages,” said Assemb. Phil Steck (D-Loudonville). “They will spend all the money they make in the economy.”

“We have a lot of concerns how this would be paid for, what’s the effect on small business and nonprofits,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) on WNYM-AM in New York City on Sunday. “It’s laudable to help people get more money, but we’re drilling down on a lot of details.”

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