Minimum wage compromise in NY could save jobs

Upstate New York could be spared from the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $15 minimum wage. That is the latest message from those close to the talks between Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats, who have been at the center of this hotly contested debate. As the two sides work to agree on terms of Gov. Cuomo’s $154 billion budget, many local organizations, businesses, and political bodies have been weighing in on the minimum wage debate.Some of the proposed modifications, which would spare Upstate business owners include exempting teenage employees, small businesses, and farms from the overall wage hike to $15, as proposed by Gov. Cuomo. Another potential concession would come in form of Upstate New York being excluded entirely from the wage hike — with minimum wage reaching $13. In that scenario, many in Albany believe the threshold would be lower than $13, but that the amount reflects a middle-ground that could later be debated further. Additionally, this concession would likely include a stipulation that calls for legislators to re-evaluate the $15 minimum wage at a later date down the road. For those who have been fighting for the $15 minimum wage — it would still leave some hope that the number could be achieved down the road.Locally there has been fierce opposition to the $15 minimum wage. The Seneca County Chamber of Commerce said in a letter that a “67 percent increase in Minimum Wage is an unprecedented and ill-timed threat to the economic viability of upstate New York.”The letter cited a continually bad climate for businesses in New York historically over the last decade, and even beyond. The Tax Foundation ranked New York 49th in the country this year in it’s annual assessment of business climates in the U.S. The report pointed to a tax burden, as well as a number of other measures that put businesses in New York at a disadvantage. The letter continues pointing out that, “The implementation of a government mandated, one-size-fits-all approach is inherently unjust and would create an even greater level of inequality between the economics of upstate and downstate.”Recently, farmers in Ontario and Wayne County came together to blast the $15 minimum wage. The Canandaigua Area Chamber of Commerce also came out against the minimum wage hike, pointing out that the measure would kill small business and drive up prices. They said in a statement that the wage hike would “erode the purchasing power of all New Yorkers — especially low wage workers.”In Ontario County the Belhurst Castle in Geneva made headlines for adding a surcharge it called the “New York State Labor Surcharge.” It amounted to roughly 4.75 percent, but owner Kevin Reeder said it was only employed to help cover the costs associated with a wage hike for tipped workers. On January 1st minimum wage for tipped workers moved from $5 to $7.50. Reeder cited the addition of nearly $500,000 in added payroll costs due to the $2.50 increase in minimum wage.Throughout the Finger Lakes, business owners, workers, and organizations have been reacting to the notion of a $15 minimum wage. While none of these floated options are guaranteed proposals — they would all serve the region better — as to avoid a major loss of commercial business. The tourism industry would be first and hardest hit by the $15 minimum wage, according to those fighting the hike in the Finger Lakes.

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