By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette — EDITOR’S NOTE: Niagara Gazette reporter Don Glynn participated in a conference call U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand held Tuesday with about 20 reporters across the state.
More than 140,000 Western New Yorkers could expect to benefit from a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, said Tuesday.
“It is simply unacceptable to have so many hard-woking New Yorkers putting in full-time hours for their families and yet still living below the poverty line,” Gillibrand said during the telephone conference call. “By raising the minimum wage and rewarding hard work, not only can more families raise themselves into the middle class, but we can grow the economy.”
Under the original plan co-sponsored by Gillibrand, the federal minimum wage would increase from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 over the next three years, with future increases indexed to the rate of inflation.
She told reporters that, if approved, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 would boost the incomes of an estimated 1.8 million New York workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute,, and generate some $3.2 billion in wage increases for the workers, revitalizing consumer spending at businesses in the Empire State. Some leading Republicans in the Senate and House take issue with Gillibrand’s projections on the bill.
The senator noted that a majority of the lowest wage earners in New York who would benefit from the increase are adult workers, not teenagers in after-school and seasonal jobs. In addition, 54 percent of the low-wage workers would be women, many with children, and about half are minorities.
It is estimated that a person now working full-time at minimum wage earns $290 per week, or $15,080 a year without any time off. That annual salary for a minimum-wage earning family of three is $3,000 below the poverty level on an annual basis. “That’s difficult to make ends meet and increases dependency on government assistance programs,” Gillibrand said.
Nationwide, increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could increase America’s GDP by about $33 billion over the course of three years as workers spend their higher earnings at local businesses.
The proposed federal wage increase has widespread support from the business community including the Main Street Alliance,the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
Opponents of the plan argue that raising the national minimum wage might have an unintended side effect of employers hiring less workers to offset higher wages. House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said earlier: “At a time when Americans are still asking where the jobs are, why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?”
On Monday, Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders reached a tentative agreement to increase the state’s minimum wage to $9 over the next three years. Under the New York plan, the wage would rise to $8 per hour in 2014, to $8.75 in 2015 and $9 by the start of 2016.
If the hike is approved by the state Legislature, New York will join 18 other states with a minimum wage above the federal minimum as of the start of the current year.