ALBANY - New York's minimum wage will increase to $8 an hour at the end of this year, 75 cents above the federal minimum and the old state rate.
It's the first of three incremental boosts approved by the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo when they approved the state budget in March. The minimum for most workers will increase at the end of 2014 to $8.75 an hour and to $9 an hour a year after that.
The minimums for workers in the restaurant industry who get tips may remain $5 an hour, with employers able to raise the maximum tip credits to $3 an hour the first year, $3.75 the second and $4 after that for staff whose combined tips and wages meet or exceed the new higher minimums.
Advocates for New York's working poor want the Legislature to revisit the issue this year, saying the minimum should be $10 to $15 an hour and include workers who get tips. Hunger Action Network called $8 "a sub-poverty wage" and noted recent U.S. Conference of Mayors surveys from 25 cities showing 43 percent of the households using emergency food programs had someone employed.
"Historically the minimum wage was for a single worker with two dependents at the poverty level," said Mark Dunlea, the network's executive director. New York's wage is still about $3,000 a year short, he said. One new push expected this year in Albany is for state authorization for New York City and other local governments where the cost of living is higher to raise their minimum wages, like San Francisco has done and other West Coast cities such as Seattle are pursuing, he said.
A recent Quinnipiac University survey found that 69 percent of Americans supported increasing the federal hourly minimum wage above $7.25, and most of them think it should top $10 an hour.
New York's Democrat-controlled Assembly in March voted to increase the minimum wage to $9 hourly with automatic increases tied to inflation, which didn't make it into the final bill.
State Senate Republicans said they were concerned raising the wage would hamper the state's economic recovery and cause layoffs. Sen. Dean Skelos of Long Island said more than 80 percent of minimum wage workers were teenagers or adults earning second incomes, not heads of households.
Another provision approved by legislators and the governor established tax credits for employers who hire seasonal employees ages 16 to 19 who are still in school. That subsidy was estimated at $20 million to $40 million a year.