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Know Your Rights
Source: Times Union
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Will 32 senators spur wage hike vote?

ALBANY — If a minimum wage increase has the support of a majority of state  legislators and the declared support of Gov. Andrew  Cuomo, what’s holding it up?

While a power-sharing agreement has kept them from power, mainstream Democrats in the state Senate say they have 27 votes for an increase along the lines Barack  Obama outlined in his State of the Union address. Coupled with the five  members of the Independent Democratic Conference, who also support a minimum  wage hike with indexing, and Democrats that dominate the Assembly, it appears an  increase could pass despite objections of Republican leaders in  the Senate.

But because Republicans in concert with IDC leader Jeff  Klein control the bills that come to the floor, the wage hike is languishing  even with the declared support of a majority of senators.

“Because there are three conferences, it’s important for everyone to know  where mine is. And we’re ready. We expect the majority partnership to be one  that’s productive for the people of the state of New York,” Senate Democratic  Leader Andrea  Stewart-Cousins told the Times  Union. She’ll be sending a letter saying as much to Cuomo and other  legislative leaders this week.

Eric  Soufer, a spokesman for the IDC, declined to comment for this story. At a  news conference earlier this month, Klein and other members pushed for an  immediate increase in the minimum wage, which they said would stimulate economic  activity and help small businesses.

Republican Leader Dean  Skelos, though, has said an increase could prevent small businesses from  hiring more workers, and that New York could wait for Obama’s proposal — for a  $9 minimum wage that automatically rises with inflation — to be considered. New  York’s current minimum wage is $7.25, and Cuomo proposed an $8.75 hourly rate,  without indexing, in his budget legislation.

Skelos “has said he is not supportive of the specific proposal the governor  put forward in the budget,” spokesman Scott  Reif said Sunday.

Cuomo has said Obama’s proposal “complicates” his own efforts in New York, in  part because Republicans are using it as a reason to stall. He has not embraced  indexing, but reacted favorably to Obama’s announcement.

Progressives are hoping Klein will be able to push. Leaders from several  labor unions, including the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, will  meet with Klein at his Bronx office on Monday to discuss strategy, according to  Deborah  Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New York.

“We’re optimistic it’s going to be a productive meeting,” she said. “From the  beginning of the campaign a few years ago, he’s been a champion for raising the  minimum wage.”

The governor and legislative leaders have said they are negotiating,  privately, over the parameters of a wage hike. Skelos and other Republicans have  suggested they can be brought on board if the existing proposal is coupled with  tax credits for small businesses or a slower phase in of the increase.

But Michael  Kink, leader of a coalition of labor and progressive groups wonders why an  “unalloyed” bill can’t be moved immediately, and Stewart-Cousins said she would  welcome a bill before the March 31 budget deadline.

“This is a clear test of the agreement between the IDC and the Republicans,”  said Kink. “Senator Klein has spoken repeatedly on delivering a progressive  agenda, and this is a very clear example of something that can and should  get done.”

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