2014-06-13 / Columnists

“Raise the Floor”

Official Point of View –
By State Senator James Sanders, Jr.

The city of Seattle made history last week as it passed legislation that will increase its minimum wage to an hourly rate of $15.00; which is more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

The cities of San Francisco and Santa Fe each have a minimum wage greater than $10 per hour. New York State’s minimum wage presently stands at $8.00 per hour, and will increase only by a mere seventy five cents at the end of this year, and another twenty five cents by the end of 2015.

Recently conducted studies ranked the cities of Rochester and Buffalo as being the fifth and third poorest in the entire country, respectively, with poverty rates of nearly 30% percent. The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau reflects Far Rockaway has a poverty rate of 27.3%. These scheduled increases to our state’s minimum wage are inadequate for the working families living in the cities, towns, and villages of its 62 counties.

Earlier this year, I wrote two minimum wage bills: the first would provide for a statewide increase of $10.10 that would go into effect at the beginning of next year, and be indexed to inflation in later years; the second would give municipalities the authority to increase their own individual minimum wage rates. Governor Cuomo recently announced he would support the passage of such legislation, but the ugly truth is the likelihood of these measures being passed before the close of this year’s session lessens with each passing day.

New York’s working poor cannot wait for the dust of November to settle before they can be given the helping hand they need to better provide for themselves and their families. Failure to in-crease the state’s minimum wage another year will further di-minish the purchasing power of its consumers, and deprives small business owners of the dollars that would provide real lift across the board to our state’s economy. Imagine how much more the low wage workers of Far Rockaway could do with a few extra dollars, instead of cents, in their pocket next year. It’s more than reasonable to expect that money would be reinvested into the state’s economy by consumers seeking to purchase various goods and services, and an increase in the demand for those goods and services would result in the need to hire more workers to provide them. The benefits would be felt more directly if New York City and other municipalities had the ability to increase their own minimum wage rates. With an ever increasing cost of living that is dictated by the forces of the market, the state must act swiftly and boldly to preserve the ability of its poorest citizens to better their standard of living.

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