Upstate and downstate senators find common ground in fight to raise the minimum wage as state budget deadline looms
With the state budget deadline looming, freshman Sens. Marc Panepinto (D-Buffalo), Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) and Jesse Hamilton (D-Brooklyn) stood together and called for an immediate minimum wage increase to be put back on the table. The senators emphasized raising the minimum wage to a living wage not only provides direct economic relief to New York's lowest earners, but also spurs economic growth by enhancing purchasing power and injecting an estimated $3.4 billion back into local economies.
To accomplish this, they called for the inclusion of a minimum wage package in the state budget to accomplish the following:
Panepinto said, "Income inequality is the No. 1 problem that faces our democracy in this country. Raising the minimum wage will allow hardworking New York families to make ends meet and put food on the table. In my district, the child poverty rate is at an unconscionable 50 percent in the City of Buffalo. Statewide, 23 percent of children are living in poverty. That is a 4 percent increase since 2010. New York's working families simply aren't benefitting enough from the economic recovery that brought us out of the great recession. Providing a livable wage to allow more people to work their way into New York's middle class is not only fiscally responsible, it is the right thing to do."
Monday's Siena Poll reported 74 percent of New Yorkers want an immediate minimum wage increase to $10.50, and 52 percent support provisions to increase it even more in future years.
"New Yorkers are telling us that we are on the right side of this issue," Hamilton said.
"Families in Central Brooklyn face the same affordability crisis families across New York face," he said. "For Central Brooklyn, the rapidly increasing price of housing, the increasing price of bus and subway fares, and increasing of other family expenses demonstrates the urgent need for the Fair New York Plan and the steps in the minimum wage package we highlight today. We need to ensure that workers' earnings can keeps pace with rising costs. We need to ensure that local leaders can set a higher minimum wage to meet the needs of their communities. And we need to ensure that workers across the state get the living wage they deserve."
The current minimum wage is set at $8.75 an hour, which translates to $18,000 a year - if one works full-time. While raising the minimum wage to $10.50 and $11.50 an hour in upstate and New York City respectively would directly benefit 1.35 million workers instantly, the senators said more must be done to safeguard against the inevitable future battles the rising cost of living will continue to cause. That is why the focal point of the minimum wage package is tying an immediate minimum wage increase to slotted future incremental increases ending at $15 in 2018
"This Democratic conference is committed to making life more affordable for hundreds of thousands of struggling New Yorkers across the state," Comrie said. "Here in Queens, 348,000 minimum-wage workers would see an average of $110 added to their paychecks each week - dollars that add up when saving for a home, caring for a loved one or quite simply pursuing the quality of life hard-working New Yorkers have earned on their path to the middle class. I urge all members of the legislature to join together in recognizing the importance of taking substantive, immediate action on this issue to bolster mobility for those who live, work in and support this state's economy."
Panepinto also called on Senate Republicans to "drop their opposition to helping minimum wage earners break out of the cycle of poverty by finally finding common ground with the Senate Democratic conference in the fight for fair pay and the raise to a dignified wage."
"Now is the time for Albany to work together, put New Yorkers first, and fight for our forgotten middle class and those struggling to get into it," he said.