New York’s minimum wage will gradually climb to $15 an hour under a budget deal the New York State Senate reluctantly agreed to support Thursday, but Upstate workers will have to wait longer to reach that pay rate.
The Republican-controlled Senate agreed in conference to a state budget deal that includes raising the minimum wage to the highest rate in the nation, said Sen. James Seward, who said the Senate plans to vote on budget bills Thursday night.
Under the deal, the minimum wage will gradually rise from the current $9 an hour to $15 by Dec. 31, 2018 in New York City.
But in Upstate New York, the minimum wage will gradually climb to $12.50 an hour in 2022, said Seward. After that, increases in the Upstate minimum wage will be tied to an inflation index until it reaches $15 an hour.
“It could be another 10 to 15 years” before Upstate businesses must pay workers $15 an hour, said Seward, who said he opposes a $15 an hour statewide hike and would have preferred not having it in the state budget.
“We beat back the governor’s plan. That’s how I see it,” said Seward, whose district includes Cortland and Auburn.
Cuomo proposed in January having Upstate’s minimum wage reach $15 an hour by July 1, 2021.
Seward said the Senate Republicans believed they could not refuse any minimum wage hike because they feared Cuomo would use a wage board to unilaterally increase the statewide minimum like he did last year with the fast food workers.
Cuomo said Wednesday that he agreed in the budget negotiations to have a minimum wage safety valve: After three years, the state budget department will conduct a study to see if the higher wage is having a negative impact on the economy. If the economy is struggling, the state could halt future planned wage increases.
The 67 percent increase in the minimum wage has been among the most contentious issues in the state budget negotiations, with Cuomo and union officials crisscrossing the state to whip up support for it, and Senate Republicans and business leaders objecting just as aggressively.
Cuomo even named his crusade to increase the minimum wage after his late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Cuomo said a $15 minimum wage would provide raises to 2.3 million New Yorkers, including 98,689 workers in Central New York. In the region, 32,181 workers are paid $9 an hour now, according to Cuomo.
He said the minimum wage hike was needed because people working full time cannot live on $9 an hour without getting taxpayer-funded public assistance. So taxpayers are subsidizing big corporations like McDonald’s who pay their workers low wages, the governor said.
But Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, a Republican from Syracuse, was among the most vocal critics of Cuomo’s $15 an hour proposal, and he predicted in January that the Senate would not pass it.
The Business Council of the State of New York predicted the $15 minimum wage would cost employers an extra $15 billion per year.
In Central New York, farmer Tony Emmi said a $15 minimum wage would cost his 300-acre farm in Lysander an extra $180,000 to $200,000 a year, a hit that would force him to hire fewer workers.
Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, said the budget deal includes $30 million set aside to help farmers pay the higher wage to workers.
The American Action Forum, led by two economists, predicted a statewide $15 minimum wage would cost New York 200,000 to 588,800 jobs, with the job losses steeper in Upstate regions.
The minimum wage hike is likely to remain controversial throughout the year as all 63 Senate seats are up for election in November.