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Minimum wage increase debated by Senate and Assembly

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The state Senate, in its 2013-14 budget resolution passed Monday, has expressed an openness to discussing an increase in the minimum wage — though so far no actual numbers have been proposed.

“The Senate has obviously got some concerns,” said Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome.

Last week the Assembly passed a bill that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour and marry future increases to the rate of inflation.

The Senate “understands that the minimum wage hasn’t increased in quite a few years,” said Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury. “But a 24 percent increase in one year is onerous on small businesses.”

“The Senate wants to look at what the impact will be on business and the impact on jobs,” Mrs. Little said.

Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, agreed.

“This is something that many of us have said should be a federal issue,” she said. “I understand how tough it is if someone was trying to survive on the current minimum wage. But we’re actually in the end going to cause small businesses to lay off people.”

Mr. Griffo said he would be interested in a multiyear phase-in of a higher minimum wage, accompanied by tax cuts and tax incentives for small businesses.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said the minimum wage increase would be a positive step for New York’s economy.

“Those that are working at the lowest end of the wage scale are not able to get ahead at all,” Mrs. Russell said, “especially in parts of the north country that requires that you have a vehicle. ... It will start pumping more money into our economy.”

But, Mrs. Russell said, while she thinks there are enough votes in the Senate to pass a minimum wage increase, “it’s a matter of making sure that the bill comes to the floor.”

In the Senate, while Democrats have a majority, Republicans and five rogue Democrats have formed the Senate Majority Coalition.

“We probably wouldn’t deal with it if we were in the majority,” Mr. Griffo said.

Assemblyman Kenneth J. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said he thinks the Assembly bill that passed last week is more posturing than anything.

“It’s more of a political statement and now we have to go over and compromise and see what we can come up with before the end of the week,” he said. “Should there be an increase? Probably it’s time to start talking like that. I think it is too much. The small businesses and the agriculture community will be the ones that are really hurting.”

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