Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed raising the state’s minimum wage and automatically adjusting it to account for inflation, but the proposal has been met with opposition from some state lawmakers. The debate centers around what the minimum wage should be, with Hochul proposing a modest increase to $16.40 downstate by 2026, while progressive lawmakers and their allies want to boost the minimum wage to $21.25 downstate by 2026 and tie future increases to inflation.
State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Latoya Joyner have proposed legislation to achieve this, saying the current minimum wage is insufficient and does not keep up with the rising costs of living. The debate is ongoing as the state’s budget is due by April 1, with the outcome potentially affecting millions of low-wage workers in sectors such as fast food.
Hochul’s proposal would benefit about 1.1 million low-wage workers, while the Ramos-Joyner proposal would benefit 2.9 million low-wage workers, or about 32% of the state’s workforce. The raise would also help reduce the poverty rate and inequality, with the Economic Policy Institute estimating that nearly half of affected workers across the state are single parents and 760,000 children live in households that would benefit from the pay raise.
While some argue that raising the minimum wage could lead to low-income families losing public benefits, a 2020 study by the National Employment Law Project found that concerns were misplaced, with benefits gradually decreasing as earnings increase. The proposal is part of a wider effort across the country to enact a wage floor, with states such as Washington and California already having raised their minimum hourly wage.
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