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Stuck in Low Wage: New York Won't Raise Minimum Pay

This budget season, wishful thinkers (myself included) believed that a higher minimum wage might possibly get passed in New York.

But today, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the legislature's most outspoken advocates for a fairer minimum wage, stated, “I don’t see it as part of the budget discussion, I see it as part of the substantive discussion before this legislative session is over." This almost surely means that earliest we could expect a change would be the next budget season, in 2013.

Just a few months ago, Speaker Silver had described the minimum wage as unacceptable, "Frankly, it is absurd to expect anyone -- let alone a working family -- to afford the cost of living today and be able to invest in their future on a salary of $7.25 an hour; or $15,000 a year.” With Speaker Silver admitting defeat on the issue, gone are any hopes of a fairer (still low) minimum wage of $8.50.

New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos will tell you that raising the minumum wage would be a "job killer," the usual conservative line. But, as Demos’ work on minimum wage has detailed, we need to raise the minimum wage if we hope to get out of the Great Recession.

Amy Traub, Senior Policy Analyst at Demos, laid out how the why raising the minimum wage would help New York's economy, "New York’s newest proposal to raise the minimum to $8.50 an hour is far from a radical proposition. Even the conservative weekly Crain’s New York Business called it 'worth considering.' That’s a major tip off that, in fact, it’s too modest -- so behind the times that New York is once again about to bested by its neighbor, Connecticut."

A higher minimum wage boosts consumer spending, in fact the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted that every $1.00 in wage increase for a minimum wage worker results in over $3,200 in new consumer spending by his or her household over the following year.

The arguments in favor of raising the minimum wage in New York State speak for themselves. The fact that we are even having a debate about whether raising the minimum wage would help or hurt the 99 percent is prepostorous. The fact that New York State couldn't manage to raise theirs this year is just downright depressing.

So the grind for low-wage New Yorkers goes on. One recent analysis found that to afford an average priced two-bedroom apartment in New York State, a "minimum wage earner must work 136 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. " Either that "Or a household must include 3.4 minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year-round."

None of that math sounds good.