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By 52 percent to 48 percent, respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll narrowly oppose an increase in the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75. Among business owners with employees earning the current minimum wage, 57 percent oppose the raise.
In a Snap Poll conducted last May, the overall result was exactly the same.
The $1.50-an-hour hike was included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $142.6 billion budget, which was unveiled Tuesday. If the Legislature approves the governor’s plan, the increase would be effective July 1.
Saying New York’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is “unlivable,” Cuomo called for the increase in his State of the State address.
A year ago, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proposed raising the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and then indexing it to inflation. The Assembly approved the increase but it stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Supporters say increasing the minimum wage is a matter of fairness and would spur economic growth because low-income workers spend a larger percentage of their pay than higher earners. Opponents argue that it would raise small-business costs and reduce employment, thus hurting the people it is intended to help.
New York’s minimum wage last rose from $6.75 to $7.15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2007. In July 2009, the federal government raised the nationwide minimum to its current $7.25, superseding the state law. Three neighboring states—Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts—have higher rates than New York.
Nearly 790 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Jan. 21 and 22.
Do you support or oppose increasing New York’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75?
Are you an owner of a business with employees earning the current minimum wage ($7.25 an hour)?
Among business owners with minimum-wage employees:
I am a small-business owner with five employees and am a fiscal conservative Republican. Workers can’t live on $7.25 per hour. We need to raise the minimum wage to the proposed $8.75 per hour. We pay our workers considerably more than the proposed rate. Productive employees need to earn a living wage; they are who makes your business successful. If they are not productive, then let them go, but reward the workers who do with a fair wage.
—Bill Cox, Marktec Products Inc., Batavia
In responding to this question, I consider the impact of minimum wage on a person who works full time—about 2,000 hours per year. If they make this new minimum wage, they earn a before-taxes income of $17,500. Frankly, even this wage seems to be impossible to live on. How can thoughtful employers think that it would be wrong to raise the minimum wage even to this level?
Any increase would be passed on to consumers, causing inflation. People on fixed incomes would suffer the most. If businesses were given tax breaks and passed those savings on to low-wage earners, then it’s a win-win. But we must create jobs to get the unemployed back to work.
My company decided to pay a minimum wage of $8.75 an hour two years ago.
—Jim DeLuca, general manager, Abundance Cooperative Market
The unemployment rate is high enough already for kids just starting out. Let’s make it harder for them to get a job. What a dumb idea.
—Craig Chormann, Quadrant Moulding and Supply
Let our corporate executives live on $8.75 an hour for a year with no bonus, no health care and no hope of promotion. Then let’s talk about who is taking all of those big risks that warrant big salaries.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
Absolutely not! Guess who is going to pay for the increase—you and me as consumers in the form of higher prices. This is a bad idea any way you look at it.
—Gene Tonucci, Allen-Bailey Tag & Label Inc.
Minimum wage has always been “unlivable”; $8.75 won’t change that—and shouldn’t.
—Steve Wichtowski, Honeoye
Why isn’t there a minimum wage for younger than 19 and older than 19?
Our elected officials should have to take a crash course in Economics 101. This concept is simple: As labor costs more, you use less of it. The teenage unemployment rate keeps getting higher—so now they want to raise the minimum wage? Goofy.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
What we should do is index everything to inflation. What sense does it make to even have a minimum wage? If higher is always better, would it not be better to just raise it now to something well beyond whatever we are thinking now? Are we really all that stupid? Please, don't answer that.
Sure, raise it. Our economy is underperforming almost every other state, we have the highest taxes and we balk at every good opportunity that comes along. Might as well keep it going, right! Another nail in New York’s economic coffin!
—George Thomas, Ogden
Cuomo's argument in favor of a living wage is compelling, until you remember that virtually no one tries working a full-time job at minimum wage rates. Part-timers at the minimum wage fill a needed niche in the labor force. The true impact of raising the minimum wage is to raise all of the higher wages that are tied to it by contract. By ignoring the economy-wide, labor force-wide impacts, Cuomo makes good political points but ignores 95 percent of the impact of his wage inflation proposal on the economy. New York simply becomes a more expensive place to do business in yet another way. Not good for our economy, especially when our unemployment rate is already higher than most other states.
Raise minimum wage to compensate for higher taxes and generate more revenue for an already fat government. … Way to go, New York. Maybe you should just put up a sign: “All Businesses need not apply … or stay, for that matter.”
Heck, $8.75—that's not a living wage! Why not $15 to $20? Come on; eliminate all those entry-level jobs for secondary household wage earners and young kids trying to make some money for the summer. They don't need it, and they are just stealing the work from those who do. Social engineer, baby; we're all over it. Who’s up for a good old-fashioned eugenics program? Oh, I'm sorry; you didn't realize that was the intended goal of program under Woodrow Wilson?
—Devon Michaels, Chili
I wonder how many times we have to go through this exercise to learn that market forces dictate the minimum wage and not law. When business can no longer attract workers, it will rectify itself. When prospective employees no longer want to work for the existing wages, they will not work! Again, the marketplace will set the correct wage!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
I actually support raising the minimum wage to a minimum LIVING wage. Study after study shows that whenever the minimum wage has been raised, it has helped the economy and done little to small businesses. And we cannot continue to pay workers so little that they cannot buy the goods and services made. It's not sustainable.
—Dave Atias, Center for Disability Rights
Seems like all else being equal, an employer would be more inclined to hire a low-skill worker at $7.25 an hour than at $8.75 an hour. Don't we want to encourage hiring?
—Doug Lyon, Lyon Capital Management
Rather than compare New York's minimum wage to three neighboring liberal states, then having our state government try to determine what wages businesses ought to pay for labor, I'd suggest eliminating the minimum wage altogether. Let the marketplace compete for good workers. Our state leadership can't even keep their own financial houses in order.
—Mike Charland, Webster
Isn't it sad that the politicians that have the power to make this rule, or law, have to be educated about this topic by an "average Joe”? Minimum-wage jobs are either entry-level work (think Burger King) or require a skill set that could be learned in an hour or less (think cutting grass, making beds). America is the "Land of Opportunity," and if people go to school to be educated (not just a social experience); work hard; read, write and speak English; groom themselves; wear clothes like you respect yourself; respect others; are honest; have integrity; have a strong work ethic; project a positive attitude; and are motivated by the understanding that anything is possible… But it all depends on the efforts and commitment of the individual. Well then, minimum wage is just a portal to success. If people are attempting to "live" on minimum wage, it is a situation they created. Perhaps they didn't pay attention in school, or dropped out. Maybe they have undesirable police records. Those pesky teenage pregnancies could be distracting, as well. Maybe reading, writing, speaking and basic math is a challenge. We have plenty of citizens who have met the challenge and motivated (disciplined and guided) themselves and their children over the years (think greatest generation). I say, work harder, get two jobs (my dad worked three jobs: day, part-time and part-time night job, concurrently) and set an example for your children. It worked for me and millions of other taxpayers. I also think that if welfare and all that surrounds it (housing, food stamps, etc.) were eliminated, minimum wage wouldn't look so bad. As a taxpayer, I propose that politicians get a wage that reflected the average income of their constituents. We, as taxpaying citizens, should be making the rules. Instead of politicians dictating to businesses what they have to pay, we should be dictating to the politicians what they get paid. After all, it's our money. I think they deserve minimum wage (the $7.25 an hour). If politicians think they are worthy of business decisions, they should step up and join the rest of business owners. They'll find it's a lot easier raising taxes then creating revenue.
Increase is overdue, but why a 21 percent jump? Major disturbances to otherwise free markets have consequences, including a ripple effect across low-wage jobs. What is good for holders of those jobs will reduce number of jobs available, decrease business competitiveness, and raise cost of living. Put aside competing partisan claims; perform an objective cost-benefit analysis to identify a win-win-win solution for workers, employers, and state residents!
—John Gebhardt, Axle Consulting
Here we go with "fairness" again. Please define fairness. Being "fair" might make you feel good about yourself, but the unintended consequences of laws like this usually hurt as many people as they help. Because there is one natural law that the politicians can never repeal. The Law of Supply and Demand is always at work. In 2005-06, when unemployment was down under 5 percent, the demand for labor was high and the supply was low. So the minimum wage in many areas was actually $1 to $1.50 per hour higher than the state law required. Now the reverse is true. Demand for labor is low, and supply is high. If you raise the minimum wage, many jobs will disappear. Owners will decide that they just can't afford that retired lady or the part-time high school kid. So how is this "fair" to the people who lose their jobs? "Government isn't the solution to the problem, government is the problem!" The politicians in Albany have driven millions of jobs from our state over the last 50 years with their high taxes and overregulation. Raising the minimum wage will drive a few thousand more away. But the “fairness” crowd will feel happy and smug "because we did something."
When the minimum wage is raised for all, there is no competitive disadvantage. In a civilized free market, if there is not enough demand for what you are selling to pay a living wage and make a reasonable profit, then your business should not survive as there is not enough demand. That’s what competition means, that some lose.
—Jim Bertolone, Rochester AFL-CIO
Raising the minimum wage will hurt the economy and the people it is intended to help. There are those who think it will help the economy because low-income earners spend a higher portion of their earnings. That is true; but to accommodate the higher minimum wage, business will have to reduce headcount to pay for it. Hence unemployment will increase; especially for teenagers and young adults who already have a very high unemployment rate. The government should get out of the way and let natural market forces go to work.
—Mike Kaser, Penfield
Add the Obamacare costs, and this increase can be called the low income increased unemployment act. It will have the reverse effects it has done so in the past. And it will affect the young entry level workers. Another new useless idea from the democrats.
—D. Kiriazides, retired
Perhaps the politicians forget that minimum wage is, in most situations, for starters only and subject to merit increases. Virtually all employees who are capable and desirous of better wages will quickly earn them. Employees who earn minimum wages long-term usually can't or won't do what they must do to improve their situations.
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.
New York stands to actually lose jobs or make it more difficult for low wage earners to find jobs. Whenever minimum wage is increased, the result is fewer jobs. It only looks good, it's all political “smoke and mirrors.”
—Michael F. Kloppel, chairman, Ontario County Conservative Party
An increase in the minimum wage will decrease the amount of job opportunities for the youth. I worked minimum wage jobs in the mid 1960s as a teenager. I don't think those jobs would have been as readily available if the minimum wage was increased by 20.69 percent as the governor wants to implement now. Minimum wage is for entry-level and training positions. As a worker gains more skills, they naturally become more valuable in the marketplace. An increase in the minimum wage may also trigger automatic increases in various labor union contracts that are tied to the percentage increase in the minimum wage. The governor needs to take Economics 101. His economic policies are not working. In late 2011, he supported a $1.9 billion income tax increase on high-income earners who are the job creators. He’s now proposing a budget increase in the next fiscal year financed in part on the backs of employers. The governor’s policies and lack of enough economic reform have contributed to unemployment rates which have been increasing in many areas of Upstate New York over the past two years. The governor’s silence on rising unemployment is deafening.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.
1/25/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.