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Long Island News

N.Y. GOP Wants To Pause Scheduled Minimum Wage Raises — Watchdogs Say They're Right

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Mark Lennihan
/
AP

The New York State Department of Labor has announced that the state’s phased $15 minimum wage increase will continue, with the next increase taking effect December 31, despite calls from Republican lawmakers and fiscal watchdog groups to put the raises on pause.

State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt called the decision short-sighted, asking the state to give the economy a reprieve until the end of the pandemic. He said many small businesses are struggling during the pandemic-related economic downturn.

"Now is absolutely not the time to do this. At a time when New York State has done nothing, we have done nothing, the governor, the legislature, the majorities have done zero to help small businesses during this pandemic.

"Now is absolutely not the time to do this," Ortt said. "At a time when New York State has done nothing, we have done nothing, the governor, the legislature, the majorities have done zero to help small businesses during this pandemic."

E.J. MacMahon, an economist at the Empire Center, said raising the minimum wage would have an adverse effect on low-wage workers.

"When you raise the minimum wage, you’re actually in effect creating a disincentive to hire, you’re going to make it less likely that more jobs are created, so you’re talking about a large number of people who lost their jobs, and you’ve just made it harder for their employers to rehire them," MacMahon said. "There’s just no other way, that’s Economics 101."

A report released by the state Division of Budget found that minimum wage workers were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, as they represent large portions of the hardest-hit industries. The report also said the state achieved record unemployment while increasing the minimum wage over four years.

Still, state labor officials said these workers could use a boost, and New York could afford the state’s eventual minimum wage increase to $15 per hour by the end of 2021. Long Island and Westchester County will reach $14 per hour in January, and $12.50 in the rest of the state.

Ortt said the budget officials did not take into account data from the pandemic. However, their report found that the available data suggests that the labor markets will make a fast recovery, and business will not be substantially harmed by the raises.