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Proposed minimum wage increase sparks debate

Posted at: 01/27/2013 7:42 PM
Updated at: 01/27/2013 11:15 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion

Talk of raising minimum wage across the state continues as lawmakers say details could be set in stone as early as April.

Right now the minimum wage rate is set at $7.25 an hour, but that may change within the next few months.

Last Tuesday Governor Cuomo proposed increasing the minimum wage in New York state from $7.25 an hour to $8.75 an hour as part of his budget presentation. That's an increase of $1.50.

Some business groups oppose the minimum wage increase, saying it would hinder the state's economic recovery and force employers to cut jobs.

News10NBC wanted to know how our local business owners felt and what our local lawmakers had to say about the proposed increase.

According to a poll conducted by the Rochester Business Journal, 52-percent oppose the increase, while 48-percent support it.

New York State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle says raising the minimum wage rate to $8.75 an hour would change lives.

“For many people (it's) going to give them perhaps just enough so they can start to see some gain economically,” he said.

Morelle says it will give workers more breathing room to meet the needs they have for things like housing and school tuition.  He says it will help to give them a financial boost, but not everyone agrees with that.

News10NBC wanted to know what Morelle had to say about business owners who think the minimum wage increase will bury their business.

“It's a relatively modest increase. Many businesses are paying people over the minimum wage to begin with and last year from small businesses we've had the lowest income tax rates in nearly 60 years. So I think we've done a great job of balancing small business owners as well as people at the small end of the wage scale,” he said.

Even though many business owners are against raising the minimum wage, some are already shelling out the extra $1.50.

“For us here at Abundance it's not necessarily an economic decision, especially since it gets mixed reviews about if it makes it better or makes it worse. It's really a moral issue,” said Jim DeLuca, the General Manager at Abundance Cooperative Market.

The part-time employees at Abundance already make the proposed $8.75 an hour. Full-time employees see about $10-dollars an hour. DeLuca says the company believes it's only fair.

“The minimum wage is at about $14,000 a year. That's below the poverty level. So it's ridiculous to have people work full-time and not make enough money to feed themselves or live properly,” said DeLuca.

DeLuca hopes other small businesses can follow.

“We've done this and it's not even a state mandate and it hasn't hurt us. If you're competition is having to pay what you're having to pay, the field is leveled. I can't possibly see how it would make any difference,” he said.

Assemblyman Morelle says the the proposal will hopefully be adopted by the end of March and will be ready to go in April, which is the start of the new fiscal year. If every thing goes as planned, the minimum wage increase will take affect on July 1.