U.S. Rep. Bill Owens and his Republican challenger in this fall's election, Matt Doheny, fundamentally disagree on many issues.
But when it comes to the federal minimum wage, they're on the same page; neither candidate wants to see it increase.
"I have concerns about increasing the minimum wage at this point," Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said in a recent interview. "I'm not sure, in the short term, that I can support that."
Rep. Bill Owens, left, and Matt Doheny
(Enterprise file photos)
Doheny, a Watertown businessman, who continues his "50 Businesses, 50 Days" tour this week, said employers in New York's 21st Congressional District have told him that increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.80 per hour, as proposed by Democrats in Washington, would be devastating.
"There's folks who say, 'You might be able to do it, but we're not going to grow,'" Doheny said. "It would really stop growth, whether it's a new business or adding more people to an existing business."
Owens said job seekers and employees like the idea, but employers are worried it could result in cutbacks.
"Demand has not rekindled like it was prior to 2008," he said. "I think the economy needs to recover more.
"We're hopeful employers can pay more," Owens added. "In many environments, they need to in order to get good, skilled employees."
Referencing a recent study by Jefferson Community College's Center for Community Studies and the Thousand Islands International Tourism Council, Doheny said seasonal residents in the North Country want a wider variety of cheaper goods and services. He said raising the minimum wage would force retailers to increase the cost of their goods and stifle the emergence of new businesses.
During a campaign stop in Saranac Lake last week, Doheny referenced two conversations he had with business owners about the minimum wage. One was a mechanic in Carthage who told Doheny he'd go out of business if the federal minimum is increased.
"Then there was a coffee shop in Glens Falls," he said. "She has four people working for her. She said, 'That's it. That's my profit. We're gone; we're not going to operate any more.'"
Doheny noted that many employers are already paying more than minimum wage but less than the proposed $9.80 hourly rate.