New York's minimum wage could increase annually under a proposal that is part of Gov. Kathy Hochul's State of the State agenda.
Hochul wants to index the minimum wage to inflation, meaning that the pay floor would be subject to annual increases based on the rate of inflation. The hike would amount to a cost-of-living adjustment as economic conditions change.
The minimum wage for workers in New York City, Westchester County and on Long Island is $15 an hour. For the rest of the state, the minimum wage increased to $14.20 an hour on Dec. 31.
Hochul acknowledged in her State of the State address Tuesday that low-wage workers have been affected by high inflation, particularly rising costs of food and other goods.
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Under her plan, Hochul said if costs increase, wages will too.
"Like other states that have implemented this policy, we will put guardrails in place to make increases predictable for employers, and create flexibility in the event of a recession," she added. "But this important change will give the nearly 900,000 minimum wage workers a lifeline. Those are workers are more likely to be women, many of whom are single moms, and they are more likely to be people of color."
Hochul's proposal appears to be a compromise after two state legislators, Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner and state Sen. Jessica Ramos, introduced a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage to more than $20 an hour and index it to inflation. While Hochul's plan would lead to annual increases depending on the inflation rate, she is not calling for an additional increase before it is indexed.
Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, praised Hochul's proposal.
"This is an opportunity for New York to break the cycle of infrequent increases that lead to the minimum wage being insufficient," he said. "Indexing the minimum wage to inflation will allow workers and employers to have predictable and reliable increases in the future."
But there are concerns about indexing the minimum wage to inflation. State Sen. George Borrello, a Republican, believes it would be devastating for small businesses. The New York Farm Bureau worries that Hochul's proposal will increase labor costs and threaten the sustainability of farms.
The issue will likely be dealt with in the budget process, which will officially begin when Hochul presents her spending proposal later this month.
New York would join 13 other states and the District of Columbia that index the minimum wage to inflation.
Gov. Kathy Hochul is targeting tobacco in her State of the State agenda this year.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul says she plans to add 1,000 beds for inpatient psychiatric treatment and create 3,500 housing units as part of a $1 billion plan to address gaps in mental health care. The multi-year plan announced as part of Hochul’s annual State of the State address also aims to increase insurance coverage for mental health services, expand outpatient services and create greater accountability in hospital admissions and discharges. The plan directs state-licensed hospitals to reopen 850 inpatient psychiatric beds that went offline during the pandemic.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.