Raise Minimum Wage to Help Working Families and Economy

January 10, 2012

While Governor Cuomo’s recent State of the State address outlined many significant and worthy proposals to strengthen New York, also of merit were bold ideas presented by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to increase economic opportunity for our working class families and spur our economic recovery.

In remarks before the Governor’s speech, the Speaker committed to making 2012 the year New York increased the minimum wage for the first time in decades, to $10 per hour, as well as the year we eliminated state income taxes for families making $25,000 or less annually. He also called for redoubling our investment in community colleges, a major source of job training and adult education programs.

These reforms make sound economic sense, and not merely for the individuals who would directly benefit. Economists agree that the frustrating pace of our recovery is due in large part to a lack of overall demand for goods and services, as people are spending less and saving more.

A rise in the minimum wage and tax cuts for working families would put more money in these individuals pockets and, subsequently, in to the economy. As it stands, people earning low- or minimum-wages are already struggling to make ends meet, and this extra cash would not only help improve their finances, but will also more likely to be put towards expenses rather than being saved.

With greater spending and greater economic activity as a result, these policies will be a net gain for job creation, helping to increase demand that fuels our recovery. Likewise, by helping our community colleges, including RCC, to better train and prepare workers for better-paying careers, we are increasing the earning – and spending – potential of these individuals, providing a welcome stimulus to our economy.

Beyond the sound economic sense of this policy package, we have an obligation to ensure that if New Yorkers are prepared to work and study hard, the opportunity should be there for them to make it in to the middle class. These programs will provide an essential hand up, not a hand out, to people who are working hard and playing by the rules, strengthening their lot in life while also strengthening our economy. This is the underlying principle of the American Dream.

As such, I stand ready to help enact these responsible reforms in the year ahead. Together with the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature, I am confident we can make the changes that will put money back in to the pockets of hard working New Yorkers, while ensuring there will be more jobs for New Yorkers who need them.