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NYSNYS NEWS: $15 minimum wage rally held before budget2016 hearing, as business group warns of job loses and tax hikes if it goes through.
NYSNYS NEWS: $15 minimum wage rally held before budget2016 hearing, as business group warns of job loses and tax hikes if it goes through.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 3) — Supporters of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for a $15 an hour minimum wage rallied before a budget hearing here Wednesday, rejecting any suggestion the hike would mean fewer jobs.

“I have had the struggle of having to make under $15 an hour in the 13 years I have been employed,” said Anthony Martinez, a CSEA member and worker at the Guild for Exceptional Children in Brooklyn, which serves the developmentally disabled. He said his job was to help others to take care of themselves, and “it’s a shame that I myself have difficulties taking care of myself” financially due to low pay.

“We deserve $15,” added Suhaiyla Mixon, a retail worker. “We deserve to be able to pay our bills and survive in New York City.”

Cuomo and legislators know the proposed wage hike “is wildly popular across New York and it can provide an effective boost to the economy,” said Michael Kink, the director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition, an advocacy group.

The hike is supported by Assembly Democrats, but Senate Republican have questioned the potential impact on employers and the possibility that a higher wage for workers will mean fewer jobs overall. Kink said advocates oppose a two-tiered wage, with higher pay downstate, or an increase that exempts some employers, such as dairy farms and agricultural businesses.

“The fight is for 15, that’s our fight and I think we are going to win … This is about a living wage people can survive on,” Kink said.

Kink said a $15 an hour boost in San Francisco helped expand the economy there. “More jobs, less turnover, tiny price hikes: SF $15 wage boost doesn’t hurt the economy, it helps it!” he posted on Twitter after Wednesday’s rally ended.

But opponents said the impact of the increase would be huge on both private businesses and taxpayers, as well as nonprofit groups.

“The well-funded Fight for $15 advocates continue to push their fantasy economics, rather than acknowledge the harsh realities of an unprecedented 67-percent minimum wage increase,” Unshackle Upstate said in a statement released as the rally took place. “In addition to the devastating impacts to small businesses and farms across Upstate New York, a $15 minimum wage will lead to massive state and local government spending increases and higher taxes.”
“Just last week, leaders from the state’s health providers testified that a $15 minimum wage will cost their sector $2.9 billion,” the group added. “This staggering hit will inevitably lead to higher Medicaid spending. Additionally, a recent survey conducted by the state’s Association of School Business Officials found that on average, a $15 minimum wage would cost $283,463 per school district. Collectively, most of these costs will be passed on to residents in the form of higher taxes.”

The higher minimum wage proposal grew out of Cuomo’s push to raise the pay of fast food workers and state and SUNY employees.

At Wednesday’s budget hearing, CSEA submitted testimony critical of Cuomo for including money in the budget for a minimum wage pay raise for state workers but not for local government employees. “This means that tens of thousands of employees that work in counties, towns, and villages would be left behind all other workers in our state,” the union said. “This is simply unacceptable and must be addressed.”