Officials say big hike in minimum wage would hurt upstate businesses

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – State Assemblyman Steve Hawley says raising the minimum wage to $15, after recently hiking it from $7.25 to $9, would be “ludicrous” and damaging to the economy.

GAINES – The governor’s push to raise the minimum wage to $15 dominated the discussion at the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Luncheon on Friday.

The governor would like to implement the higher wage for New York City by 2018 and then the rest of the state by 2021.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul attended the luncheon and she said the higher wage would lift people out of poverty and put $15 billion more into the economy.

She said the state is offering $300 million in tax credits to help offset some of their costs with the higher minimum wage.

But that isn’t a good trade for businesses, having to spend $15 billion more to get $300 million back, said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of The Business Council of New York State.

Ken Pokalsky, vice president of The Business Council of New York State

Pokalsky said New York City could better absorb the increase. The city has experienced 14 percent job growth since 2000. However, Pokalsky said upstate has only had 2 percent job growth since 2000 and Orleans County has declined by 10 percent with jobs.

“It is a very soft labor market,” he said during the Legislative Luncheon attended by about 100 people at Tillman’s Village Inn.

The state just raised the minimum wage to $9. It was $7.25 three years ago, but would more than double from $7.25 with the governor’s push.

“This is a huge problem,” Pokalsky said. “It’s an issue of real concern to us.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said a $15 minimum wage would force businesses to eliminate positions and not hire people looking for work.

“The real minimum wage is $0,” he said. “It’s a ludicrous proposal.”

Hawley, owner of an insurance company, said the higher minimum would force him and other people, who pay well above the current minimum wage, to also raise their pay. Hawley said the governor should let the market dictate salaries.

“It’s absolutely un-American,” he said.