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Cuomo Talks $15 Minimum Wage During State Address

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New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo argued in his state address Wednesday that a $15 minimum wage causes less economic stress than low-wage workers forced onto welfare.

Cuomo touched upon a range of issues during his State of the State address. He promised a balance between economic development and social justice. A central part of his plan is to increase the state minimum wage to $15 an hour. New York is poised to potentially become the first state with such a large increase — from nine to 15 dollars.

“Millions of low-wage workers have to choose between paying taxes and buying food,” Cuomo declared. “We can raise the minimum wage to $15 and we can show this nation what real economic justice is.”

Skeptics are concerned the increase will cause tremendous economic stress and limit job opportunities. Many businesses may not have the profits to handle such an increase. Cuomo countered the claim during his speech by noting minimum wage workers often have to take food stamps and public assistance, which adds a great tax burden on businesses and state residents.

“That argument is the height of hypocrisy,” said Cuomo. “It’s corporate welfare at its worst … I haven’t heard the opponents stand up against the McDonald’s subsidies.”

He claims the state is essentially covering a part of the wages through welfare. Therefore increasing the minimum wage would simply mean businesses will have to cover more of their labor cost instead of passing it onto the state taxpayers. But to critics, economic dangers are real and significant.

Seattle was the first to pass a $15 minimum wage in June 2014 but many businesses have already reported problems. The increase has the potential to leave businesses with few options to offset the added cost of labor beyond hiring less workers. Cuomo has proposed and implemented a number of tax cuts to help relieve costs for small businesses in the state. His office estimated the cuts will save small businesses nearly $1.2 billion by 2021.

Cuomo has already done a lot to push the policy in his own state. He unilaterally raised wages for those working in the fast-food industry, state university workers and state employees. He also introduced a bill Sept. 10 that will gradually bring the state minimum wage to $15 by 2021. The increase will be phased-in overtime to help mitigate stress on businesses.

The proposal will need the support of at least some Republicans in the state Senate. Nevertheless Republican leadership has said they are not ruling it outCuomo also unilaterally raised wages for those working in the fast-food industry, state university workers and state employees.

Labor unions have been some of the most adamant about pushing the policy nationally and in the state. The Service Employees International Union Local 1199 launched media marketing campaigns in support of the statewide increase. The union-backed Fight for $15 movement has been at the forefront of the nationwide fight.

The policy is popular in the state. A majority of New York residents, 62 percent, already support the $15 minimum wage, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.

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