ALBANY — Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Tuesday appealed for public pressure to force a vote that would raise the minimum wage, one of his top priorities but one that has defied a political resolution. Soon after, the Senate's Republican majority dug in deeper against the raise.
Each side claimed the high ground over whether to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, from $7.25 now, for more than 1 million state residents. Silver called it a moral obligation to make sure hardworking people aren't poor, and he was backed Tuesday by a brief demonstration outside Senate offices.
Hours later, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said he sees a moral imperative to protect and grow jobs, and he said raising the minimum wage would cost workers more in taxes and lost social services.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said he supports the idea, is taking heat for not doing more to bring his Senate Republican allies into talks.
"We're very disappointed," said Mark Dunlea, executive director of Hunger Action Network and a leader in the progressive Green Party.
Dunlea said it was disappointing for advocates for the poor when Cuomo and legislative leaders took the issue out of budget bargaining, where Silver had more leverage. Dunlea also criticized Cuomo for not holding out for Senate support in a trade to accept the Senate majority's legislative redistricting map, which was criticized by good-government groups as twisted to protect majority power.
"He has absolutely failed to provide leadership," Dunlea said.
He said Democratic and Republican lawmakers also appear to have chosen to use the minimum wage as a way to mobilize each party's base for this fall's elections.
Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said the governor "supports raising the minimum wage, as we have made clear repeatedly."