NYC Would Be Able to Set Minimum Wage Under Bill

New York City and other localities would be allowed to raise the minimum wage under a bill introduced in the state legislature, a move supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The measure backed by Democrats in the senate and assembly would allow municipalities with higher costs of living, such as New York, to raise minimum pay without having to wait for state action. De Blasio, who took office in January, says he wants to challenge Albany’s control over taxation and other issues. He’s already locked in battle with lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo over the mayor’s plan to raise income taxes on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten classes.

“The time for half-measures is over,” Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Yonkers Democrat who leads her party in the Senate, said in a statement. “Failing to adequately raise the state’s minimum wage has hampered economic growth by severely limiting the purchasing power of families throughout New York state.”

New York’s minimum wage rose to $8 an hour in December and will reach $9 by 2016, making it one of 21 states that require pay above the $7.25 federal standard. That’s still less than the $10.10 an hour that President Barack Obama wants. Last week, Obama, a Democrat, said during his State of the Union address that localities should push for higher rates because of gridlock at the federal level.

Albany Control

In New York, the third-most-populous state, municipalities can’t set a minimum pay that’s separate from the state’s. They also need Albany’s approval to raise most taxes.

De Blasio, a 52-year-old Democrat, said in a Jan. 31 radio interview that the city should be allowed to set a minimum wage on its own and tie its growth to inflation. In San Francisco, where the cost of living is similar to Manhattan’s, the pay floor has been linked to consumer-price-index growth since 2004, reaching $10.74 this year.

“We’re still, again, under the control of Albany, and so Albany changed the minimum wage, but it’s going to phase in very slowly,” de Blasio said. “It’s something we still have to fight for and win.”

De Blasio is already squaring off with Cuomo, a Democrat and his friend of 20 years, over the tax increase the mayor wants so he can provide schooling to more than 50,000 4-year-olds. Cuomo, 56, proposed in his budget last month a plan to spend more than $2.2 billion over five years to provide pre-K to every community that wants it. De Blasio’s plan earmarks $2.5 billion over five years just for New York City.

Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the minimum wage bill.

Though the bill may pass the Democratic-controlled assembly, its future in the senate is clouded. The chamber is led by a coalition of Republicans and four breakaway Democrats. Senator Dean Skelos, the Long Island Republican co-leader, has opposed raising the minimum wage, and bills can’t be brought to a vote without his approval.

To contact the reporter on this story: Freeman Klopott in Albany at fklopott@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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