Press-Republican

May 15, 2012

APNewsBreak: Officials say higher min wage dead

MICHAEL GORMLEY
Associated Press

ALBANY — The months-long effort to increase the minimum wage for millions of New Yorkers is dead, officials said Monday.

"To say it is dead is to suggest it was alive in the first place, which it was not," a state official familiar with the private dealings in Albany said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the Assembly's Democratic majority is still trying to get the measure passed.

The Assembly will vote on its own version of the bill Tuesday, but Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has said repeatedly the bill won't reach the Senate floor, a view rank-and-file Republicans share after recent closed-door conferences.

Last week, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who supports an increase, didn't include it in on a list of a half-dozen active issues ne believed could be resolved by the end of the legislative session on June 21.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday he believes his proposal is still alive.

"I had a conversation with the governor today about it, he's supportive," Silver said. "He's trying to figure out if there is some kind of deal to be made on it."

Silver, however, said he knows of no deal, hasn't spoken to Skelos about it, and doesn't want to engage in a trade.

"It's not something that ought to be dealt, something that's right," Silver said. "The Senate can't sustain that position ... (Skelos) might even face pressure from some of his rank-and-file members that feel they can't take that position in an election year."

The measure would raise the wages of millions of New Yorkers working at and, likely, just above the minimum wage.

"Skelos clearly has no idea what it's like to try to make ends meet on $300 a week," said Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party of progressive Democrats. "Poverty wages may be good for McDonald's and Walmart, but they're not good for New York."

Word the wage won't increase comes after the Siena College poll showed the highest support yet for hiking it to $8.25 an hour from the current $7.25. The poll showed 78 percent of voters supported the increase, compared to 17 percent opposed.

The poll shows some of the political calculus surrounding the issue pushed by progressives including the Occupy Albany movement during this legislative election year. It found 88 percent of Democrats support the Assembly proposal, compared to just 8 percent opposed. Although 58 percent of Republicans support the measure, 34 percent are opposed, including members of the retail and business associations who are important donors to Republican campaigns.

Retailers have said raising the minimum wage would cost jobs in a recovering economy where unemployment is already above 8 percent

Democratic Sen. Jeffrey Klein had released a study, however, claiming the measure could generate $600 million in economic activity and create 4,800 jobs.

Among independent voters, a large and important consideration in New York, 75 percent support raising the minimum age and 20 percent are opposed.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and 15 other states have higher rates.

The Siena poll questioned 766 registered voters last Sunday through Thursday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

____

Online: www.siena.edu/SRI/SNY