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March 8, 2013

Minimum-wage bill approved in Assembly, but not by North Country members

PLATTSBURGH — The State Assembly approved a bill this week to increase the state minimum wage up to $9 per hour — but it didn’t get any North Country legislative support.

It did, however, receive approval from one major employer in this area.

“We look at it that it is probably about time,” said Tom Mailey, spokesman for Stewart’s Shops.

Stewart’s employs about 4,000 people in 327 stores in 30 upstate counties, including numerous stores in Clinton, Essex and Franklin.

RELIEF MEASURES

Stewart’s support of the minimum-wage increase is at odds with the North Country’s legislative representatives, who oppose the plan.

“There is absolutely no mention of any relief for businesses large or small with this,” Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) said Wednesday.

“There are things we can do for businesses if we pass this, but there is no mention of any of it. I can’t support a bill that does not address the many issues facing businesses.”

Duprey and Assemblyman Daniel Stec (R-Queensbury) both voted against the measure, which passed in the Assembly by a count of 101-44, with most of the majority Democrats supporting it.

HIGHER THAN SOUGHT

The bill went beyond Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to get the minimum wage increased from $7.25 per hour to $8.75.

Duprey said she is concerned that raising the minimum wage that much could wind up costing jobs.

“I’ve talked to a lot of business owners who told me that they would either have to lay people off or not hire any summer help,” she said.

“Many businesses have said they are just beginning to see a profit for the first time in two or three years, and if we do this to them, it will just set them right back.”

Stec said the bill went too far and that he would have liked to have seen a carve-out for farmers.

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