Nine months late and a couple dollars short. How else to describe the minimum wage hike slated to take effect this week?
The increase should have been implemented last April, when it was approved as part of the state budget deal. And it should have been more substantial than the measly 75 cents that Senate Republicans insisted on.
Trying to eke out an existence on $8 an hour in an expensive state like New York is only slightly less preposterous than trying to do so on $7.25 — the current federal minimum. It’s only possible with public assistance — food stamps, Medicaid, Section 8, HEAP, etc. — which, though they are available, require taxpayers’ involvement. Why should they have to subsidize companies that are too cheap to pay their workers a living wage?
At the very least, the state Legislature should have raised the minimum to $9 in one fell swoop — instead of phasing it in over two-and-a-half years. How much will $9 be able to buy by the time 2016 rolls around?
Granted, it would be better for New York’s businesses if the federal government raised the minimum across the land, as President Obama and most congressional Democrats want to do. But with so many states near New York already having higher-than-federal minimums — Pennsylvania is the only abutter that won’t as of 2014 — it shouldn’t affect the labor market much here.
Still, New York’s Senate Republicans couldn’t live with a straight-up minimum wage hike; not only did they have to water it down by phasing it in, they held out for a $20 million-$40 million tax cut for businesses that hired teenagers (as if they wouldn’t otherwise do so). Perhaps if these politicians had to experience living on below-poverty wages, they’d have a change of heart.